Archived Story

Census: City population dropped in past decade [UPDATED]

Published 2:51pm Wednesday, March 16, 2011 Updated 6:39am Friday, March 18, 2011

Lakes Country is still the place to be in Otter Tail County.

Eight of the county’s top ten largest cities saw population increases from 2000 to 2010, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

And the common denominator in the cities with population increases: The cities sit near some of the largest lakes in Otter Tail County.

Ottertail, Battle Lake, Perham, Pelican Rapids and Henning saw the greatest  growth during the past decade, while Fergus Falls and New York Mills were the only cities among Otter Tail County’s top ten to experience a decrease in population.

Otter Tail County grew — but by .03 percent — from 57,159 residents in 2000 to 57,303 residents in 2010. That’s an increase of 144 people. That’s a stark contrast from 2000, when the county was boasting a 12 percent population increase over 1990 figures and people were flocking to Otter Tail County and many townships were experiencing 25-percent population increases.

But it appears that at least some of the population boom of the 1990s has gone bust in the first decade of the 21st Century. Thirty-three of Otter Tail County’s 62 rural townships — that’s more than half —saw population decreases.

The census didn’t bring good news for either the cities of Fergus Falls or New York Mills If population growth is a sign of success for a municipality. According to figures released Wednesday, the city of Fergus Falls’ population decreased 333 people during the past decade from 13,471 residents in 2000 to 13,138 residents in 2010. That’s a decrease of about 2.5 percent. The area around Fergus Falls also saw a population decrease and five of the six townships surrounding Fergus Falls fell another 227 people.

The populations in Carlisle Township fell 63 people to 156 people; Fergus Falls Township fell 45 to 1,006; Orwell Township fell 3 people to 170; Buse Township’s population decreased 199 people from 690 to 491 people and Dane Prairie Township decreased five people to 887. Aurdal Township’s population increased 88 people from 1,362 people in 2000 to 1,450 in 2010.

In New York Mills, the population declined 39 people from 1158 in 2000 to 1119 in 2010.

The biggest gainer in Otter Tail County was Perham, which saw its population grow 16.5 percent to 426 people. Perham’s city limits extend to Little Pine Lake and is very close to Big Pine Lake in northeastern Otter Tail County. The city followed a trend in the county that saw cities near water experience dramatic growth increase.

Take Ottertail City, for example. The city on Otter Tail Lake saw a 27 percent population spurt — the greatest in Otter Tail County. Ottertail City’s population was 451 in 2000 but grew to 572 by 2010. Battle Lake, which sits near West Battle Lake, saw its population increase 26.6 percent from 686 people in 2000 to 875 in 2010. Pelican Rapids, where the city limits extend to Prairie Lake and is just a short distance from Pelican Lake, Lake Lizzie and Lake Lida, saw its population increase by 90 people during the past decade. Vergas, where the city limits rest on the shores of both Loon Lake and Long Lake, saw its population increase by 20 residents.

In other larger Otter Tail County cities, Underwood grew by 22 people and Vining by 10. Henning, located east of Otter Tail County lakes country, saw an 11.5 percent population increase from 719 people in 2000 to 802 people in 2010.


    careful now saying things like this can get you labeled as being negative and angry round these parts.

  • papergirl

    I guess the “new” Kennedy school and the talk and push for the ice arena didn’t exactly become a priority for people to stay or move here. It still boils down to having GOOD jobs to get people to move here.

    • NOVALL

      Amen to that.

  • soodeeqw

    I think that a cities or towns must encourage/provide incentives for present and new businesses, manufacturing and entrepreneurship.

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