A barn at Dean and Douglas roads in Bedford Township, Michigan, contrasts with new housing developments nearby.
When the results of the 2000 federal Census were announced last year, few were surprised that the official population of Monroe County had grown by nearly 10 percent over the last decade after dropping slightly during the 1980s.
After all, even the most naked eye can spot new subdivisions when they sprout out of former farm fields in Monroe County's fastest-growing areas, such as Bedford Township and the village of Dundee.
Monroe County's population reached 145,945, according to the Census, up from 133,600 residents in 1990.
Whether the area's popularity is a result of the availability of new amenities that make life in the country easier, or just a desire to move to quieter surroundings from cities such as Detroit and Toledo, Monroe County officials say they are happy to lay out the welcome mat for all who care to move here.
Dundee continued its phenomenal growth in 2001, marking the first anniversary of the opening of Cabela's megastore in August. The 225,000-square-foot store drew 6 million visitors in its first 12 months, making it Michigan's No. 1 tourist destination, according to the Michigan Department of Travel and Tourism.
Cabela's strong first year and impressive drawing power has added to speculative development across western Monroe County, as individuals look to draw a few of the store's visitors their way.
Several hotels and new chain and local restaurants opened last year in and around the village, while other development plans remain on the books.
While it may have a way to go before it would become Monroe County's biggest population center, Dundee continues to make plans for growth. Ground has been broken on a state-of-the-art, $30 million high school that is being built across the road from the old Dundee High School.
Even as officials continue their efforts to diversify Monroe County's economy, residential growth seems destined to remain the economic engine driving most of the area's growth as the county's rural and suburban lifestyle keeps attracting residents from Toledo and Detroit.
Once a quiet bedroom community, Bedford Township has the largest population of any entity in Monroe County, and, with 28,606 residents, is Toledo's most populous suburb.
One of the attractions of the township is its school district.
After a lengthy construction process, Bedford Public Schools finished a large addition to the high school and opened the doors last fall on its fifth elementary school. The new school is located along Monroe Road in Lambertville.
Voters in neighboring Whiteford Agricultural Schools passed a bond issue request that was designed to fix several deficiencies in their aging school districts. School officials in the Mason Consolidated School District were finally successful in convincing voters to raise their taxes to upgrade schools.
Fresh off an election that installed two new members to city council, the city of Monroe is refocusing its developmental energies on its central business district, working with local artists on plans to beautify the area with public works of art.
The city and neighboring Frenchtown Township spent much of 2001 on efforts to further expand their delivery networks for city water further into western and northern Monroe County.
This, in turn, could further fuel residential growth in areas that otherwise suffered from sulfur-tainted water.
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