What's behind the population boom at a favorite Vineyard vacation spot? (Conspiracy) theories abound.
If it seems like the line at the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs has gotten longer, there may be a good reason: According to the 2010 census, the Marthaâ€™s Vineyard ferry town is the fastest-growing community in eastern Massachusetts. In the past decade, roughly 1,550 people have permanently come ashore on the Vineyard, 800 of them settling in Oak Bluffs. The townâ€™s population number â€” 4,527 â€” has shot up by 22 percent.
The question is, why? Other Vineyard towns saw only modest gains, while Cape Cod hemorrhaged people over the past 10 years. Itâ€™s true that the president has taken to vacationing in town, but officials are at a loss to explain whatâ€™s behind the growth spurt.
â€śWe donâ€™t know for sure,â€ť says Christine Flynn, who does demographic work for Dukes County. Town Administrator Michael Dutton suspects that it may have to do with the allure of Oak Bluffsâ€™ racial, cultural, and economic diversityâ€”itâ€™s long been a haven for African-American vacationers. And it probably doesnâ€™t hurt that housing in Oak Bluffs is among the most affordable on the island.
But some people suspect there may be something else at play. When heâ€™s asked about the population growth, Dutton jokes, â€śAre you calling to talk about the census mistake?â€ť And resident Shelley Christiansen confirms that thereâ€™s a widespread rumor in town that the government simply got it wrong. â€śCensus-taking is rather loosey-goosey on the island, always done by humans,â€ť she says. As it happens, Vineyard residents are not mailed census forms. Instead, workers are hired to count person by person, which has led to talk of an overcount.
Itâ€™s a fine theory, but census officials insist that Oak Bluffsâ€™ population number is solid, and local leaders have no plans to challenge it. For once on Marthaâ€™s Vineyard, the more people, the better.
Population growth for the rest of Marthaâ€™s Vineyard over the past decade.
Population growth for Massachusetts over the past decade.
Population growth for Oak Bluffs over the past decade.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2011/05/census-bluff/