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Baby boomers drive Eagle growth

Sarah Mausolf
Eagle, CO Colorado
Pam Boyd/Eagle Valley EnterpriseNancy Loth, left, and Enid Nelsson, right, pair up for a doubles tennis match Friday in Eagle. The two women are examples of Eagle's burgeoning baby boomer population.
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EAGLE, Colorado –About two years ago, Kathleen Brown and her husband decided to move to the Vail Valley.

Tired of the growing traffic and souring economy in Fort Collins, they struck out for a place where the stars were plentiful at night and wildlife abounded. But the houses in the Vail area were out of their price range.

“Everything we looked at upvalley was in the millions,” Kathleen said.

But Eagle real estate proved more affordable, and the Browns bought an Eagle Ranch home in the $700,000 range in July 2007.

Kathleen 48, liked Eagle’s close proximity to Vail and Glenwood Springs.

And while the major computer companies in Fort Collins were laying people off, houses were sprouting up across Eagle. It seemed the recession had not yet hit Eagle.

“Everything was still booming,” Kathleen said.

The Browns were hardly the only people who found Eagle attractive.

A Census Bureau report released this week lists Eagle as the second fastest growing town in Colorado. The population here swelled by 7.6 percent in 2007-08, from 5,479 in July 2007 to 5,897 in July 2008, the estimates show. The fastest growing town in the state was Mead, a former agricultural town off Interstate 25, halfway between Denver and Fort Collins.

One explanation for Eagle’s growth spurt is its popularity among retirees.

“A lot of what’s been taking place on the Western Slope really has been the beginning of the baby boomers starting to retire,” state demographer Elizabeth Garner said.

Located close to the Eagle County Airport in Gypsum, Eagle stands amid scenic mountains, she said. Those things could help to explain the town’s appeal among baby boomers – the generation born between 1946 and 1964, she said.

Along with the baby boomers themselves, towns like Eagle have been attracting people who provide the services that sprout up to accommodate the baby boomers, such as grocery stores and doctors, Garner said.

Eagle grew at a rate nearly four times as fast as the statewide population in 2007-08, the report shows. The state population increased by 2 percent, Garner said.

She said the towns that grew at the swiftest pace were mostly places with fewer than 10,000 residents. They stand mostly in the Western slope or along the I-70 corridor, and some of them swelled as a result of the oil and gas boom.

However, it’s important to note that the total number of people who moved to Eagle during 2007-08 was not that large – just 418, Garner said. Eagle actually falls 28th among Colorado towns when one looks at the total number of people who moved in during 2007-08, as opposed to the percentage increase in the population.

Denver gained the most residents. The population there jumped by about 15,800 people.

And while Eagle certainly boomed two years ago, the Census report does not take the economic recession into account, Garner said. She expects Census data released on July 1, 2010 showing population estimates for 2008-09 to reveal the effects of the economic recession.

“I think a lot of people expect things to slow down tremendously for the next couple of years on growth,” Garner said.

In the meantime, it’s interesting to look back at a time when Eagle was the second fastest growing town in the state. Pete Woodward, owner of the Broadway Cafe in Eagle, moved to Eagle Ranch from Edwards in 2006. He said the clean air, mountain views and Eagle Ranch golf course lured him to the town.

“I just think Eagle’s one of the coolest places in Colorado,” he said. “It has such a future if it’s done well.”

Although Eagle’s growth appealed to Kathleen Brown when she moved in, she thinks the town has reached a good size.

“It’s still kind of quaint,” she said. “It’s going to lose that if it builds too much.”


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