Lehigh Acres is much larger than most residents realize and now much larger than its adjacent incorporated city of Fort Myers. Lehigh, still an unincorporated community, is the home of John Fry, a 35-year-old father who is raising a 7-year-old son, working part-time, volunteering at the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday mornings and attending Edison College where he expects to earn an associate degree in civil engineering next year.
In the quest of his studies, he came up with the latest population figures for Lehigh Acres from the Gale Cengage Learning Library of which is used by Edison College and its students as an additional source of information for studies.
"Lehigh Acres now has a population of at least 90,713," Fry said. "That's up from 86,784 taken in the 2010 census."
Fry, who enjoys surfing for information on the Internet during his studies said the figures come from the Demographics Now by the Gale Cengage Librariesas provided by the Gale Group.
According to Gale's home page, it is a part of Cengage Learning and is a world leader in e-research and educational publishing for libraries, schools, and businesses.
Fry said local students may be familiar with the service as it is part of the Edison State College Library database.
"While Lehigh Acres' large population might not be a surprise to the local residents, the fact that Lehigh Acres currently has a larger population than Fort Myers might come as a shock to those not familiar with the area," Fry said.
"Fort Myers, according to the Demographics Now has a population of 65,120, so Lehigh Acres has a population of about 25,000 more people than fort Myers," he said.
Ada Thompson of Lehigh, who for several years kept up with the population grown in Lehigh Acres for the Lehigh chamber told Fry that she wasn't surprised with the large number reported as Lehigh's population figures.
Thompson kept records and produced population figures in the early 2000s when Lehigh was in its boom days.
Fry also produced copies of reports from the online college service that the average age of folks living in Lehigh is 33 years. Of that figure, he said 49.2 percent are male and 50.7 percent are female. He also noted that a projection for 2017 puts the population of Lehigh Acres at 107, 332 with still the present age median of 33.
"The total population was 33,623 in the 2000 census and the average total median age was at 38 years," Fry said.
Those figures certainly show that Lehigh Acres is not necessarily a community of senior citizens and the proof in the pudding is the number of elementary schools and an additional senior high school and middle school that were built over the past few years in the community.
Fry said that he is interested in Lehigh's future for himself and his son and he expects to continue to live in Lehigh.
"I like Lehigh that although it is a large community now, it still has that small family feeling," Fry said.
When he is not attending Edison College as he will be when classes resume in August, Fry is visiting with new residents of Lehigh, not only through his experience at the front desk at the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce on Homestead Rd. in the Lehigh Town Centre, but with his own venture that he calls "A Big Welcome to Lehigh Acres."
He fills a large yellow bag with all types of things and presents them to new residents of Lehigh. While his enterprise is relatively new, he is planning to approach several businesses in Lehigh and ask for discount coupons that will attract the new residents of Lehigh to their businesses.
He includes copies of the local media and other items in the bag that should be of interest to new residents. New residents can expect to get a bus stop route which LeeTran provides in Lehigh to move residents around the community and to Fort Myers where they can transfer to other busses and travel throughout the county.
He gets his information from a variety of sources including official records of people who have built new homes in Lehigh.
Up the present, much of what he has done in welcoming new residents to Lehigh is by word of mouth. He said he has been surprised how many people he meets at the chamber who have recently moved to Lehigh and stop into their offices to ask questions, buy maps and ask questions about where restaurants and other businesses are located.
He's glad to pass that information on because he says he wants Lehigh to continue to grow and be that "friendly hometown" to others.
"What I would like to see in Lehigh are more parks, maybe another library in another site in Lehigh," he said.
The community is a large parcel of platted lots of close to 100 square miles in area. Some have said Lehigh is one of the largest areas of Florida and if it ever incorporates to have home rule, it will be listed among the largest cities in the state, at least in area," he said.
If you're new to Lehigh, you can contact Fry by going online and emailing him at: ABigWelcometolehighacres@live.com.
"I was doing research through the library base which is supplied to Edison College students and came up with the demographics of the area. And when I saw the population number, I was surprised as I think most people here are," he said.