Each summer, Ashe County’s population swells with seasonal visitors arriving to escape the heat and enjoy the mountain weather.
According to information from the United States’ Census Bureau, Ashe County’s population swelled by approximately 8,540 people during the summer of 2010.
“The Census puts out a count of seasonal housing units and we can make an assumption on a population swell during the summer months based on those numbers,” said Adam Stumb, Ashe County director of planning.
“The impact on the county’s economy is significant,” said Stumb.
Along with the population increase, there is also an increase in the number of seasonal housing units of 4,270 units in 2010.
“With an influx of people retreating here during the summer, you see an increase in spending on gas, food, entertainment which equals an increase in sales tax revenue in addition to the property taxes paid on these seasonal houses,” said Stumb.
Also according to the Census Bureau’s information, the influx of residents who visit each summer, along with visitor’s housing units, has increased since 2000.
From 2000 to 2010, the summer population swell has increased by 3,948 and seasonal housing increased by 1,974 units.
“I would be speculating somewhat but the increase in seasonal housing coincides with the increase in home building during the early part of the last decade (the 2000’s),” said Stumb. “I think those numbers will continue to increase but we may not see an increase like that again.”
Local business owner Keith Woodie, the owner of Antiques on Main in West Jefferson, said this long-term increase in summer visitors could partially be due to the Christmas in July summer street festival. He said the festival helps bring visitors to the county, and some visitors like the “laid-back mountain atmosphere,” promting them to stay for the summer.
“I think it’s a big boost to our homes sales and our commercial sales,” said Woodie about the summer visitors.
According to Stumb, the population estimate is based on two people residing per house during the summer months. Stumb explained how the population estimates were calculated.
“Keep in mind this only counts seasonal occupants that own houses and excludes hotels, cabin rentals, campers, day trippers and other seasonal residents. It also assumes that the occupants are ‘snow birds’ and are staying here the whole summer,” said Stumb. “There are a lot of assumptions in this calculation but we can only work with the numbers we have.”