More than 93% of Ascension Parish’s population growth over the past two decades has occurred outside of the three parishes and continues to be heavily oriented towards the east bank, new census data shows.
Still, the east bank parishes of Ascension, Gonzales, and Sorrento saw solid to strong growth over the same period, making the Louisiana parish the 13th largest parish in 2020.
Gonzales has grown nearly 50% since 2000; Sorrento by almost a quarter. But the unincorporated portions of Ascension grew nearly 78% over the same two-decade period.
Despite the strong growth on the east bank, the western rise continues to see trends in the other direction. For the third decade in a row, Donaldsonville, the township seat and neighbor of CF Industries, one of Ascension’s largest taxpayers and employers, has seen its population decline.
The new population data from the US Census Bureau’s ten-year statewide census provides the latest snapshot of long-term growth trends in the community.
The new census, mandated by the U.S. Constitution, is used locally to set the boundaries of districts for the ward, school council, city and town council districts, other local bodies, and seats of the legislature.
The new numbers show that overall, Ascension was Louisiana’s second fastest growing church in the past decade, at nearly 18% between 2010 and 2020, and the fastest growing church in the past two decades, at 65%.
Ascension Parish has added approximately 49,870 people since 2000. The community had 126,500 people in April 2020. Two decades earlier, in 2000, it had 76,627 people, census data shows.
Nationwide, only the parishes of Livingston, Lafayette, and St. Tammany have taken in more people than Ascension in the past two decades – between 50,468 and 73,302 people – but both parishes began with a larger basic population than Ascension in 2000, so their growth rates were slower in the following decades.
In fact, Ascension grew more than twice as fast in the previous decade as it did between 2010 and 2020. The growth rate between 2000 and 2010 was just under 40%.
New housing developments, especially since the August 2016 flood, remain a major political issue at Ascension, which recently sparked a nine-month, and possibly longer, moratorium on new developments, passed in late June and introduced in mid-July. Flash floods from a sharp May rain brought the persistent drainage problems of the low-lying community back to life.
On Thursday, the ward council learned from advisers reviewing the rules for the development of the ward who are expected to issue an interim report on how those rules have managed the growth and what kind of fixes might be needed next month. The local council and mayor Clint Cointment have called for the moratorium so that they can tighten development requirements.
The Prairieville area, which has seen many new homes built over the past two decades, grew 23.4% between 2010 and 2020, ending the period with 33,197 people, census data shows.
The Census Bureau did not begin tracking the unincorporated area of Northern Ascension as a designated location until 2010. The office defines the parish over a north-western and north-central part of the region, traced La. 42, Bayou Manchac and parts of La. 73 and extends a little further east past where La. 42 and La. Cross 44.
The Prairieville office definition also excludes areas west of I-10, including Dutchtown and the Bluff Road area, as well as some far eastern portions of Galvez and Lake. Both areas have also grown strongly.
The Prairieville area followed Gonzales’ 25 percent growth rate over the current 10 year period, but Prairieville added more than twice as many people as Gonzales.
Prairieville added 6,302. Gonzales added 2,450 and reached 12,231 people in 2020.
On the west bank of the Mississippi, growth trends are a different story as population loss has accelerated over the past decade.
Donaldsonville, the only city in the West Bank, lost nearly 10% of its population between 2010 and 2020 and nearly 12% of its population since 2000, which differed greatly from the annual census estimates that had shown the city had grown in the 2010s.
Overall, the city’s population has decreased from 7,605 people in 2000 to 6,695 people in 2020, according to the 10-year census.
Just a year earlier, in 2019, the Census Bureau had estimated the estimated population of Donaldsonville at 8,441, the culmination of a supposed nine-year growth trend of 13.5% since 2010. But in 2020 the census takers counted 1,746 fewer people than the 2019 numbers were estimated.
The 2020 census was delayed and faced more obstacles than usual due to the pandemic, but the Census Bureau says the Louisiana 2020 census is 99.9% accurate.
The total population of Donaldsonville in 2020 is the lowest number since anywhere between 1960 and 1970. Donaldsonville’s population was 6,082 in 1960, the year then Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy was elected President. The number had risen to 7,367 people in 1970, according to census statistics.
The census data, immediately available in the Office’s first 2020 data release earlier this month, offered a limited view of the unincorporated areas of the West Bank outside of Donaldsonville.
But one ward the bureau haunted, Lemannville, lost 19.2% of its small population in the past decade.
Located right on the Mississippi River from Donaldsonville and upstream of the Sunshine Bridge, the historic community saw its population decline from 860 to 695 between 2010 and 2020.