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Population shrinks, even before the June 17 tornado

Wadena's official population count is 4,088, down from 4,294 in 2000.

The 2010 U.S. Census figures have been released for individual Minnesota cities, and while many area towns have increased population figures, most have not kept up with the overall state population growth of about 7.8 percent since 2000.

Mayor Wayne Wolden said that possible reasons for the city of Wadena population decline were fewer children, a difficult economy, an aging population and people wanting to move out into the country -- as suggested by the population increase in Wadena County overall.

The schools were experiencing declining enrollment.

"It's indicative of an aging population," Wolden said.

Wadena County posted modest growth at 13,843, up from 13,713 in 2000. Menahga had the most robust growth of Wadena County towns at 1,306 - 7 percent from 2000 and 21.4 percent since 1990.

Verndale and Sebeka have had modest but consistent growth since 1990.

Staples has declined to 2,981 from 3,104 in 2000, but that figure is still higher than the 1990 population of 2,863.

Aldrich has seen sharp population decline, at 48 down from 53 in 2000 and 70 in 1990.

The city of Nimrod's new population number is 69.

Small towns in western Minnesota generally have stagnant or declining population figures, as can be seen on a map in the website.

Southwest Minnesota and the Iron Range have lost populations, while Twin Cities exurbs have posted dramatic growth.

A few area towns have themselves been rapidly expanding, however. Ottertail city currently stands at 572, up 26.8 percent (pop. 451) from 2000 and a whopping 82.7 percent (pop. 313) from 1990.

Perham has also grown significantly at 2,985 people, up from 2,559 in 2000 and 2,075 in 1990.

Park Rapids rose to 3,709 up from 3,276 in 2000 and 2,863 in 1990.

The larger regional towns surrounding Wadena have mostly surpassed the state average growth rate. South on Minnesota Highway 29, Alexandria has seen the biggest population increase at 11,070 - up 25.5 percent (pop. 8,820) since 2000 and 41.2 percent (pop. 7,838) since 1990.

Detroit Lakes, Bemidji and Little Falls have also grown faster than the overall state of Minnesota rate in the last 10 years.

Brainerd grew a modest 3.1 percent since 2000, and Fergus Falls lost 2.5 percent.

Though the numbers are out, the green population signs will not be up right away.

Brian Ausie at MnDOT of Baxter said he wasn't sure exactly when the new city limits signs with 2010 population figures would be posted, but early summer was likely.

See Population Chart at left.