By VICKI URBANIK
Porter County grew by 17,866 people in the last decade, with Chesterton
exceeding 10,000 in population for the first time and the town of Porter
growing proportionately more than any other local municipality.
U.S. Census figures released Friday show that Porter County grew by 13.9
percent since the last census in 1990, well above the 7.6 percent jump in
the previous decade. The county has retained its rank as the ninth largest
among Indiana’s 92 counties.
Porter County’s growth rate far surpassed its neighboring counties. Lake
County grew by 1.9 percent, or 8,970 people, retaining its rank as the
second largest in the state. Meanwhile, LaPorte County grew by 3,040, or
2.8 percent, and fell a notch from the 13th to the 14th largest.
Looking at the figures one way, it’s as if in the last 10 years, Porter
County grew by adding another Chesterton, Porter, Dune Acres, Burns Harbor
and Beverly Shores -- combined.
Looking at it another way, the county’s growth during the 1990s was
almost double than in the 1980s, when the county gained 9,116 residents, a
7.6 percent increase. But it was way below the massive growth experienced
in 1970s, when the county grew by 37 percent by adding 32,702 people, or
in the 60s, when the increase was nearly 45 percent, with 26,835 new
The town of Porter had the single greatest percentage increase in all of
Porter County, with a 59.4 percent jump, from 3,118 to 4,972 people.
Elsewhere in Northwest Indiana, only the town of St. John in south Lake
County had a larger percentage jump at 70 percent.
In sheer numbers, Porter’s increase of 1,854 residents was the third
highest in the county, followed by Portage, which gained 4,436 residents,
and Valparaiso, which grew by 3,014.
Despite earlier fears that the census might show a drop in population for
Chesterton, the town had a 14.9 percent increase, climbing from 9,124
residents in 1990 to 10,488.
For the third decade in a row, both Burns Harbor and Dune Acres lost
Burns Harbor fell from 788 in 1990 to 766. In the 1980 census, the town’s
population was 920.
Dune Acres‚ population stands at 213, a 19 percent decrease over the 263
population in 1990. In 1980, the town had 291 residents.
The only other Porter County community that lost population was Ogden
Dunes, which fell from 1,499 in 1990 to 1,313.
Among the county’s 12 townships, Jackson Township had the greatest
percentage jump, climbing from 3,473 people in 1990 to 4,592, a 32 percent
Porter County’s unincorporated areas now total 61,322 in population,
compared to a total of 85,476 people who live in the cities and towns.
While the town and city population increased by a total of 11,271 in the
last decade, the unincorporated areas gained 6,853, climbing from 54,469
in 1990 to 61,322.
Area leaders said they were surprised or pleased, or both, by the census
figures, which still are considered only preliminary since they can be
Chesterton Clerk-Treasurer Gayle Polakowski said she is happy the town
surpassed the 10,000 population mark, as town officials had expected.
Earlier, the town got a bit of a scare when a federal grant estimated that
the town could lose population once the final census figures were
“We were hoping that we’d go over the 10,000 mark,” Polakowski said.
“We couldn’t figure out how we couldn’t.”
The town’s nearly 15 percent population jump in the 1990s was
significantly greater than in 80s, when the town’s growth was only 6.9
percent. But, as with the rest of the county, the latest census pales in
comparison to the 38 percent growth during the previous 10 years, when the
town’s population hit 8,531 in 1980.
Polakowski said the town has yet to receive any official census figures
and that she learned about the numbers only through the media. She added
that the higher figures will increase the town’s share of cigarette tax
and alcoholic beverage tax money, since the tax distribution is determined
“That’ll be good,” she said.
In Porter, Clerk-Treasurer Paula Deiotte said she expected the town’s
population to grow, but not as much as it did.
“I was expecting us to be around 4,000,” she said. “I was definitely
In the 1990 census, Porter grew by only 4.35 percent. In 1980, the town
suffered 2.2 percent decline.
Deiotte attributed the latest increase mainly to a flurry of new
developments in the last 10 years, particularly Porter Cove and the
additions at the Orchard Apartments.
“We’ve had quite a few new subdivisions go in,” she said.
The county’s overall numbers also took County Commissioner President
Larry Sheets by surprise, but in a different way.
“I was expecting 150,000,” he said, noting that county officials for
some time have been predicting that Porter County’s total population
would exceed that benchmark.
Still, Sheets said he’s surprised by the growth in the unincorporated
areas. In the 1990 census, he said, the rural growth was concentrated in a
few areas, but this time around, every township increased.
“It was interesting to me that in the unincorporated areas, Porter
County is growing all over,” he said. “It shows that growth is
In sheer numbers, Center Township had the greatest increase, adding 5,583
residents in the last 10 years, a 17 percent increase from 32,603. In
percentages, Jackson Township’s 32 percent increase represents 1,119 new
residents, from 3,473 in 1990.
The smallest gain was in Pine Township, which grew by 74 people, from
2,779 to 2,853, a 2.6 percent increase.
Sheets said the numbers reinforce the need for a strong land use
management plan, a project the county is close to completing.
“It shows that while we can’t control growth, a land use management
plan could show us how to direct that growth,” he said.