Friday, October 16, 2009

Changing Population

At the October 8, 2009, Master Plan forum, the discussion focused on changes to the population of the Town of Wakefield that have occurred over the past 40 years, what trends may be developing, and how those trends may effect Wakefield in the future.

Our Town Planner presented statistics for the Board’s review and discussion and discussed how those statistics are developed and what they mean to the community.

The NH Office of Energy and Planning (NH-OEP) estimates the 2008 population of Wakefield to be 4,826. Local data, such as student population and voter registrations, indicate that the year-round population for the Town of Wakefield may be as high as 5,900.

The Town of Wakefield is one of the fastest growing communities in the state and has consistently experienced a higher growth rate than Carroll and Strafford Counties, and the State of New Hampshire. Population for the Town of Wakefield has increased nearly 240% since 1970. During the same period, Carroll and Stafford Counties and the State of NH experienced population increases of 155%, 74% and 78%, respectively.

The population for the Town of Wakefield increased by 57.5% from 1970 to 1980. Wakefield experienced additional surges in population growth from 1980 to 1990 (a 39.6% increase) and from 1990 to 2000 (a 39.1% increase). A review of population data with other available data indicates that a significant portion of the increase in population from 1990 to 2000 resulted from the conversion of seasonal or vacation homes to year-round residences.

Seasonal population is important to the community in terms of the potential for increased consumer spending, as well as increased demands on municipal services. A local survey would be necessary to determine with reasonable accuracy the number of seasonal residents in Wakefield. As that type of data isn’t currently available, the Planning Board will estimate the seasonal population using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and building permit data. A preliminary estimate of the seasonal population is 4,775 persons, but the Board will continue to look at this estimate during the November 12th Master Plan forum.

The population of Wakefield is aging. According to US Census Bureau data, the largest increase in population from 1980 to 2000 has occurred in the 30-44 year age bracket, followed by the 45-64 year bracket. The school age population (ages 5 through 17) demonstrated the third largest increase in population. The median age in Wakefield has increased from 36.4 years in 1980 to 40.1 years in 2000. This is a trend that is being observed throughout New Hampshire as families have fewer children and more young adults leave the state in search of employment opportunities.

Wakefield’s population is projected to increase in the coming decade, but at a slower rate than experience in previous decades. Over the next 12 years, the period covered by the Master Plan update, the Wakefield population is projected to increase approximately 23%.

The Planning Board will continue to discuss changes to the Town's population at the November 12th Master Plan forum.

Acton-Wakefield Watershed Alliance Completes Watershed Study

The Acton-Wakefield Watershed Alliance (AWWA) received a grant from the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from the clean water act to undertake a watershed study that included Great East Lake, Horn Pond, Lake Ivanhoe, and Lovell Lake – all of which are part of the Salmon Falls River watershed.

The purpose of the study was to develop a build-out analysis and to make recommendations to the Town of Wakefield and the Town of Acton regarding changes to zoning and land use regulations to better protect each town’s surface waters. FB Environmental, the consultant hired by AWWA to complete the study, presented the results of their study to the Planning Board at the Board’s Master Plan forum on September 10th.

FB Environmental began their presentation with a discussion of how to balance growth and protection of environmental quality. They identified the introduction of phosphorus into our surface waters as a primary concern affecting water quality. Phosphorus enters our surface waters through run-off from development and impervious surfaces, and leaching from septic systems, with fertilizers and detergents being the most frequent source of phosphorus. Erosion and the resulting siltation was another concern identified by FB Environmental.

Recommendations to minimize the amount of phosphorus included encouraging property owners to use phosphate-free fertilizers and detergents. To help control erosion, FB Environmental suggested that the towns encourage cluster developments and the use of low impact development techniques.

To learn more about the watershed study and surveys, visit the AWWA website at:

Following this presentation, the Planning Board began a discussion on natural resources planning. The Board requested the Town Planner to research the results of a natural resource inventory undertaken by the Conservation Commission about 5 years ago. The Board then went on to discuss viewsheds throughout town and the need to identify and protect them.

There will be more discussion on these and other concerns when the Board begins to update the natural resources chapter of the Master Plan.