By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
While an increase in a city’s population of 450 to 650 might not seem very large, the mayors of Cody and Sheridan are saying the boosts in populations measured in one year could have a major impact.
Between the summers of 2020 and 2021, Park and Sheridan counties had two of the highest increases in population recorded in the state. Sheridan County’s population grew by 650, while Park’s increased by 452.
Cody Mayor Matt Hall and Sheridan Mayor Rich Bridger both said while they expected the U.S. Census to record some growth in the one-year period, neither expected the growth of 1.5% and 2.1%, respectively, reported recently.
Some cities might never notice that number of people moving into the area within a one-year period. But for the Sheridan and Cody, those few hundred new residents can make a big impact on an area, the mayors said.
“Our census numbers for 2020 brought our population up from around 9,500 to a little over 10,000, but I think it’s higher than that,” Hall told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “There are a lot of other communities within the Bighorn Basin that show we’ve had more growth than the census numbers indicated.”
Hall said that some of the impacts seen on the city in the last two years has been longer lines at shops during the tourist “off season” and a bit of a housing strain, but also an economic uptick during the off season.
Hall thinks the population number in Cody actually ranges somewhere from 10,500 to 11,000 residents.
He also believes that many of the new residents are coming from outside the state, from places such as California, Colorado and Texas.
“We have year-round commercial air service, relatively decent shopping amenities, cultural things like the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the rodeo,” Hall said. “How long did it take people to realize how great these places are? And that’s not just Cody, it’s all of the places in Wyoming that have access to the mountains.”
Sheridan’s Bridger told Cowboy State Daily that there has been a real boom in housing over the last two years, which is partially caused by the amount of people moving into the area.
This has been the biggest downside for people moving into Sheridan, he said, as many houses are being built, but are still unaffordable to much of the local workforce.
“Our economy is doing well. Our sales tax numbers have been going up every month,” he said. “But the downside is you have to accommodate for that.”
Bridger also believed that most of the new residents have moved to Sheridan from out-of-state. He thought the pandemic was also one of the biggest reasons people started moving to Wyoming.
“We have a fairly diversified economy in Sheridan,” he said. “It’s also just a beautiful place. We’re close to the Bighorn Mountains. There’s a lot of hunting and fishing opportunities. We have a great downtown with a lot of shopping. Aesthetically, it’s just a beautiful place to live.”
Lincoln County saw the largest population gain in the state during the year, 2.4% or 479 residents.
Afton Mayor J.C. Inskeep and Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s requests for comment.