Unable to sustain the rate of growth seen in the 1980s, Hernando's population still increased 29.4 percent.
By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2001
Hernando County's population grew by almost a third during the last decade to 130,802, a rate slightly faster than the overall growth of Florida, but far from one of the fastest-growing counties in the state, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Tuesday.
Through the 1980s, Hernando was the third-fastest-growing county in the United States for counties with more than 5,000 people.
As expected by county officials, the biggest rates of increase came in census tracts that include the Timber Pines and Seven Hills communities on the county's west side.
The county's Hispanic population continues to explode; it rose 122 percent in the 1990s. Hispanic residents now make up about 5 percent of the overall population in Hernando County and have surpassed the number of non-Hispanic blacks as the county's largest minority group.
While Hernando County grew at a faster pace than Florida's total population, it is no longer near the top of the list of the state's fastest-growing counties. In the 1990s, 25 other counties grew faster than Hernando. The fastest was Flagler, at a rate of 73.6 percent.
Hernando County grew by a much slower rate -- 29 percent -- to 130,802 people from 101,115 reported in the 1990 census, making it the 28th largest of Florida's 67 counties. By comparison, the state's overall population grew by 23.5 percent during that time.
County planners were not surprised by Hernando's overall growth, having tracked it by state estimates and county building department figures.
"I think this has been pretty routine growth," said David Miles, a county planner and demographics expert. "The (Suncoast) Parkway I don't think affected it all that much. But it will in the future."
Miles said Hernando's growth is the result of people who have moved here from other states and other parts of Florida. The county's death rate remains higher than its birth rate.
The biggest rate of growth took place in the census tract that includes Timber Pines, east of U.S. 19, which Miles said he predicted. It grew by almost 95 percent to 6,171 residents, according to the 2000 census.
The second-fastest-growing area was a tract that includes Seven Hills, which is north of County Line Road and west of Mariner Boulevard. Next in line was a tract that includes Silverthorn and Pristine Place, newer developments east of Spring Hill and south of Brooksville.
The slowest areas of growth were around Brooksville, including the east side of town, where population fell 17 percent.
While Miles was not startled by the overall population numbers, he was impressed by the rate of growth in the Hispanic community.
"That's certainly a significant change," he said.
While the number of non-Hispanic black residents -- an estimated 5,395 -- grew by 42 percent, the number of Hispanic residents grew by 122 percent, giving Hernando a total of 6,587 Hispanics.
The reason for estimates in racial categories is because direct racial comparisons to 1990 are impossible since the Census Bureau allowed people to check more than once race on the 2000 questionnaire. The Times analysis of census numbers used a formula to reassign multi-race people back into the 1990 categories, making 2000 race numbers an estimate.
Even though those numbers appear to reflect an astounding increase, they pale in comparison to the rest of the state, reflecting a trend in a burgeoning Hispanic population throughout Florida.
Hernando ranked only 37th in the state for rate of increase in Hispanic population during the 1990s. The top county was Wakulla, where the Hispanic population grew by 434 percent.
The largest areas of growth in Hispanic residents in Hernando include areas north of State Road 50 just east of U.S. 19; an area north of Northcliffe Boulevard and east of U.S. 19; and an area west of Mariner Boulevard and south of SR 50.
Noemi De La Rosa, president of the Spring Hill Latin American Social Club, says she was not surprised by the increase because she has seen a steady rise in club membership during the past 10 years.
"We have about 200 members now," she said of the club, which is one of four Latin-American organizations in the area. "When this club was started, there were eight to 10 people about 18 years ago."
She attributes the growth to developers who set up model homes in Puerto Rico and New York back in the 1960s and 1970s, trying to attract prospective homebuyers. In more recent years, the Hispanic population keeps growing as relatives and friends come to visit and decide to move their families here, she said.
"They come to visit and they start making plans to move over here because they like it," she said.
County, hospital, school and social service officials say the numbers released by the Census Bureau will help them with plans for the future as they attempt to obtain grants, build roads and expand utility service.
"With a growing population, you are constantly looking for funding to provide services," said Jean Rags, county social services coordinator.
"Once we get the age breakdown, I am looking at the working population or a population that is still dependent," she said. Census information helps her learn, for example, "if we have (sufficient) subsidized child-care programs."
County Commission Chairman Chris Kingsley said the information will help officials make county government more reflective of the community.
"Again, when you start looking, it will give us the opportunity to look at the makeup of our employees to make sure it's mirroring the statistical makeup of the county," he said. "And when you see the pockets of growth and development, you see what we need to do with the infrastructure to meet the need for growth."
The information released by the Census Bureau on Tuesday was relatively limited. Additional statistical breakdowns will be forthcoming this year and into 2002.
Hernando grew by 29.4 percent during the past decade, ranking it close to the middle of Florida's 67 counties in rate of growth. One of the most striking increases has come in Hernando's Hispanic population, which more than doubled over the past 10 years.
Here are the 2000 population numbers reported by the U.S. Census Bureau for some of the major "census designated places" in Hernando County. Since Brooksville and Weeki Wachee are the only incorporated cities in the county, other boundaries are generally accepted estimates of the territory the communities encompass. People are not counted more than once. Thus, Timber Pines residents are not included in the total for Spring Hill.
Hernando Beach 2,185
Hill 'n Dale 1,436
Lake Lindsey 49
Pine Island 64
Ridge Manor 4,108
Spring Hill 69,078
Spring Lake 327
Timber Pines 5,840
Weeki Wachee 12