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Berkeley County was W.Va.'s fastest growing in last decade

Population topped 104,000, according to 2010 Census

March 23, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
By Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County was the fastest growing county in West Virginia in the last decade, topping 104,000 people, according to 2010 census data released Wednesday.

A gain of 28,264 people — which amounted to a 37.2 percent increase in 10 years — is "the kind of growth that changes the dynamic of a community," said Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson.

In making the leap from 75,905 to 104,169 people, Berkeley County became the state's second most populated county — up from sixth. Unger also noted that the increase alone was greater than the 2010 population figures for several counties.

"It's amazing, it really is," said Unger, who will lead efforts in the Senate to redraw the state's senatorial districts based on the new population numbers.

Second to Berkeley in growth, Jefferson County saw a 26.8 percent increase in population since 2000 and now ranks as the 11th largest among the state's 55 counties, with 53,498 people, according to the new census data.

Morgan County, which was the sixth fastest growing county, saw a 17.5 percent increase, adding 2,598 residents to reach 17,541 in last year's census.

Most of Berkeley County's growth happened outside the city of Martinsburg's municipal boundary, which still grew by 15.1 percent, according to the census data. The city's gain of 2,255 residents to reach 17,227 eclipsed Clarksburg, W.Va., to become the state's ninth largest municipality and was the fastest growing among cities over 10,000 in population.

With much of the growth happening in Martinsburg's west end beyond Interstate 81, Mayor George Karos said the city is looking at redrawing the boundaries for Ward III.

The ward includes most of more than 900 acres annexed into the city since 2000, according to a review of annexation ordinances.

Karos said they have not discussed whether one of the city's two at-large council seats could be converted to a sixth ward as part of the city's redistricting process.

City Manager Mark Baldwin said the city's growth, at least in part, prompted the hiring of six additional firefighters and four police officers.

The Town of Hedgesville, Berkeley County's only other municipality, saw a 32 percent jump in population, increasing from 240 to 318, according to the census data.

Berkeley County Council President William L. "Bill" Stubblefield said the community's growth has led to an increase in retail shopping and restaurants, the enhancement of health care services through City Hospital's affiliation with West Virginia University and expanded job opportunities, including Macy's investment of millions of dollars to build an Internet-service center in the county.

Yet, Stubblefield said the growth also has come with challenges, noting the loss of orchards and farmland to development.

"We've lost some of that rural magic," Stubblefield said.  

Jefferson County Commissioner Dale Manuel said he could recall when you would go to the grocery store and know practically everyone there.

"You don't know everyone that's there now," Manuel said.

Two of Jefferson County's five municipalities, Charles Town and Ranson, now total more than 9,600 residents, according to the data.

Shepherdstown's 2010 population was 1,734, up from a corrected total of 1,202. The town's population in 2000 was initially reported as 803, but was later revised to reflect the addition of four Shepherd University dormitories that were left out of the original count, officials said.

Harpers Ferry, which is practically unable to grow through annexation, saw a 6.8 percent increase population, adding 21 residents to reach 307.

The population in the neighboring Town of Bolivar, meanwhile, remained unchanged at 1,045.

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