One-day population explosion hits Avon |

One-day population explosion hits Avon

Matt Zalaznick

The discovery, made public this week by the U.S. Census Bureau, drove the town’s already bustling population up 10 percent. Curiously, every one of those residents – who apparently weren’t counted in the 2000 U.S. Census – are Hispanic.

“When they did the counts, there were some areas that looked a little low to us,” says Avon Town Manager Larry Brooks. “It’s always better to have a more accurate count, especially when it goes up. If the numbers are more accurate and they go down, we don’t like that.”

The 2000 census counted 5,561 people in Avon, making it one of the fastest growing towns in Colorado. More than a third of the Avonites counted – 2,222 –were Hispanic.

The adjustment Thursday nudged the Hispanic population up by about 10 percent, to 2,451.

“The way the Hispanic population is growing, if they missed 230 I think it was a fair try, though they could’ve done better,” says Juan Martinez, who works with La Mesa, an Hispanic advocacy group.

In Colorado, cities and towns get almost $10 per person each year in state lottery dollars – an added incentive to get every person counted. But Jim Westkott, a state demographer, says that he doubts Colorado’s spending formulas will be changed by the adjusted numbers.

Brooks says a more accurate count should ensure towns get enough money to take care of residents – no matter what ethnicity they are.

“You get allocations from the state, and federal revenues, so it’s very important the count is accurate,” he says. “It does help from a variety of revenue sources to help take care of needs and impacts.”

The adjustment also drove up the population up slightly in Minturn, though exact figures weren’t available. The town’s population – 1,068 –barely changed in the 2000 count, Town Manager Alan Lanning says.

“Our population is getting pretty fluid because of second-home owners and the rental community,” Lanning says. “If we had a population increase, it was probably because of rental units.”

In the 2000 census, about half Minturn’s residents –475 –identified themselves as Hispanic.

“Things are getting better for Hispanics in Eagle County, though there’s more we can do,” Martinez says. “But we’re finally at the point where people are listening to us and trying to make things better.”

Earlier this year, Eagle County and Catholic Charities came up with $50,000 a year to hire a special advocate for the Hispanic Community.

That advocate, Allison Kercher, says she’s gratified the missed residents have been counted.

“I think Hispanics keep this valley running,” Kercher says. “I think many people take that for granted and don’t even realize it. There’s still a lot to be done.”

But, Martinez says, there are encouraging signs the status of the valley’s Hispanics is continually increasing.

For example, Avon had its first-ever Hispanic candidate for Town Council in Martinez’s brother, Rene, who missed winning a seat by just 10 votes. Rene Martinez finished fifth among 12 candidates running for four seats.

“The Hispanic community is getting their voice out and people are listening,” Juan Martinez says.

Brooks, who has been in the valley since the early 80s, says he still marvels at the growth that has occurred over the past 20 years.

“You kind of need to be an old timer to appreciate it. I can remember going through this area when nothing was here,” he says. “If somebody told me Eagle County would have 40,000 people someday, I’d have thought they were nuts.”

The county’s total population hovers just over 43,000, 23 percent of whom are Hispanic. As for Avon, Brooks says he’s pleased to have 230 more residents just two weeks after he was promoted to Town Manager andput in charge of the town.

“We’re bumping close to 6,000 in Avon,” he says. “Hopefully, they are 6,000 happy constituents.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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