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Published May 05, 2011, 12:00 AM

West Fargo gets baby bump

Census numbers show surge in children
WEST FARGO – While 27-year-old Medora Roehl was growing up, this city didn’t have the best reputation.
But over the past couple of decades, West Fargo’s image has changed as dramatically as the residents living here.

WEST FARGO – While 27-year-old Medora Roehl was growing up, this city didn’t have the best reputation.

Through Roehl’s eyes, West Fargo was a tiny, working-class suburb – home to hard-working people but not quite the endearing “Leave It To Beaver”-esque community.

But over the past couple of decades, West Fargo’s image has changed as dramatically as the residents living here.

Since 2000, North Dakota’s “city on the grow” has attracted scores of families who have sparked the city’s own version of a baby boom.

Children under age 5 now represent the largest segment of West Fargo’s population, according to 2010 demographic profile information released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Among the city’s nearly 26,000 residents, about 2,200 – or nearly 9 percent – were under 5 years old.

That amount is double the number of young children West Fargo had just 10 years ago.

West Fargo’s bump in population marks a significantly higher increase across the decade than North Dakota, Cass County and Fargo saw in the number of their youngest residents.

Roehl and her husband, Ben, also 27, are among the many young families establishing permanent roots in West Fargo.

But in the Roehls’ case, the roots of their 3-year-old daughter Lydia are an extension of their own.

Medora and Ben Roehl are lifelong West Fargo residents, and the city’s evolving landscape convinced them to stay in the same community where they were raised.

Medora Roehl said West Fargo’s revamped charm and small-town community mentality enticed her to stay.

“It still is a pretty small, tight-knit community even though it’s still hooked to Fargo,” she said, adding that the societal changes over the years have made West Fargo “a really exciting place to live.”

There are more activities for children and families, specifically because the parks and schools systems continue to maintain their high quality, Roehl said. Those are factors she believes will benefit Lydia as she grows up.

But while West Fargo leaders have welcomed the recent boost in population, the growth has created a more dire need for more space in the city’s schools.

And not everyone agrees that the once-small West Fargo should spend taxpayers’ dollars on more or bigger schools, especially since some facilities won’t be built until they’re absolutely needed, which could take years.

It’s a crossroads West Fargo voters will face May 24 in an $82.5 million schools bond referendum.

As West Fargo’s youth population continues to grow, so does its proportion of adults 55 and older.

That increase can be explained by the construction of multiple senior-friendly housing complexes in West Fargo, which offer a variety of medical and social assistance to an aging population.

For example, Moorhead-based Eventide built Sheyenne Crossings in West Fargo nearly six years ago. It offers at least 130 units of senior-citizen housing.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

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