The Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department predicted the population of Lancaster County to increase by approximately 120,000 people over the next 30 years.
To plan for this drastic population increase, government officials are putting forward an initiative to manage its impact on the community – The Plan Forward Lincoln-Lancaster County 2050 Comprehensive Plan.
As part of the initial stage of the project, a planning team hosted an open house Feb. 6 at the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln where members of the community shared their concerns and learned more about the changes to come.
UNL alumna Anna Graff was one of about 60 attendees. After one of her friends informed her about the event on Facebook, she decided to join.
“I think it is important to come if you care about the future of the community and the means of transportation. I just wanted to make sure that Lincoln is a good place to live in the future,” Graff said.
The open house featured a series of interactive booths where attendants had the opportunity to share their insights about the community.
Later in the evening, David Cary, Planning Director of Lancaster county, delivered a presentation on the key changes the community is going to experience and gave a comprehensive view of the Plan Forward Lincoln-Lancaster County 2050 comprehensive plan.
Currently, the county has a population of approximately 320,000 people. In 30 years, this number is predicted to grow to 440,000. As a consequence, Lincoln will see changes in technology, transportation, infrastructure, and the job market, according to Cary.
“We have recently experienced an awful lot of change that has happened and will continue to happen. Having these conversations with the public is important, as we may miss on ideas,” Cary said.
The main goal of the initial stage of the project is to foster a collective vision for the future of the county. The Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department believes residents play a crucial role in shaping the future through their beliefs and priorities.
The quality and affordability of housing are essential to the county’s future. Making sure the community and city are inviting and safe for residents is a must, according to Cary.
Creating a resilient, innovative, livable, and thriving community is the main objective of this project.
“We need to build strong foundations for the generations to come,” Cary said.
David Drozd, research coordinator and census and data specialist, provided a detailed analysis of what demographic changes to expect in the following 30 years.
The county is currently experiencing a greater number of births than deaths, resulting in population growth. Moreover, a greater number of people are moving to the county and staying. In the following 30 years, these trends will persist, according to Drozd.
“Many people come here for college when they are 18 or 19 years old, and by the time they are done and get their jobs, many of them end up staying. They may meet their spouses while in college and have kids, keeping the growth steady,” Drozd said.
The largest-growing age group is currently adults over 75 years old. In the years to come, this group will outnumber kids under the age of 5 for the first time in history.
“A larger number of elderly will implicate a larger number of health-related issues and accessibility,” Drozd said.
This will impact the county in many ways, mainly in how public services and areas may have to adapt to be accessible for the elderly. For instance, parks will need to feature more ramps, rather than stairs, for wheelchair accessibility, Drozd said.
Lancaster County will experience significant growth in the number of minority residents, according to Drozd. Hispanics and Asians will continue to grow in number, which can lead to a different cultural landscape.
“Language and cultural challenges may be a big thing in the future when combining an aging population and growing minority groups, many health workers may end up being people of color, and there could be a clash of ideas between the older white generations and the younger diverse caretakers,” Drozd said.
Projections indicate a big demographic change in Lancaster County with social and cultural implications.
For more information visit www.planforward2050.com.