Maine Census data tell two stories

By Rick Hampson, USA TODAYPosted 43m ago |

Maine edged closer toward the identity crisis known in the state as "the two Maines" during the past decade as more urban, comparatively affluent southern counties gained residents and several counties in the rural, relatively poor northern region lost population.

Census figures released Thursday showed that Aroostook County— the largest county in land area in the USA east of the Mississippi and one that looms so large in the Maine consciousness that it's known simply as "The County" — lost 2.8% of its population. Washington County — classic "Down East" coastal Maine, extending to the Canadian border — lost 3.2%.

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At the other end of the state, the Census numbers tell a different story.

York County, which extends south to New Hampshire and is only a short drive from booming northern Massachusetts, gained 5.6% compared with the state's overall population growth rate since 2000 of 4.2%. Neighboring Cumberland County, which includes Maine's largest city, Portland, gained 6% and remained the most populous county.

Even they were overshadowed by growth in Waldo (6.9%) and Penobscot (6.2%) Counties, which lie to the south and north, respectively, of Bangor.

Portland's population rose 3% to 66,194. No. 2 Lewiston, an old mill city that has seen an influx of immigrants, grew 2.5% to 36,592. Bangor, the third-largest city, grew 5%, to 33,039. Orono, home of the University of Maine, grew 13.7% to 9,112.

John Mahon, a business professor at the school, said the north-south population split reflects real regional tensions. "People in the south resent the money that goes north for social services," he said. "But when it's time to go on vacation, they like it as a recreation ground." ... nsus_N.htm