Economy and Transportation
Lower taxes, abundant land, and reasonably priced real estate are certainly part of the allure to this tranquil region. However, many find more than a vacation home or bedroom community in the Eastern Panhandle or Western Maryland. They discover an ideal place to live, play and work in close proximity to leading metropolitan areas like Baltimore or Washington, DC. Commercial development is booming in many of its growing cities and towns, and county planners are moving decisively to keep pace with the expansion.

Relocations or expansions of existing facilities in this area include major private corporations like Corning Glass, General Motors, Western Electric and AT&T. However, government agencies and installations like the US Coast Guard are also taking advantage of this relatively undeveloped and prime land. Smaller companies are following in the wake, filling the industrial parks and shopping centers with vital new enterprises. Even long-established retail centers are flourishing and adding new stores.

Many of the businesses that thrive in this area have been in place for centuries, from farms and orchards to mineral spring baths. Abundant natural resources play an important role in local economies, from timber for sawmills to minerals for mining operations. Recreation dollars play a significant role in Garrett County, while tourism feeds the spas, resorts and shops of Morgan County’s Berkeley Springs.

Excellent transportation facilities make it easy for residents and businesses to take advantage of this land-rich rural area without paying a price in isolation. Well-maintained state highways connect to major interstate arteries. Commercial and passenger rail service, intrastate and interstate bus service, trucking services, local airports and the close proximity of regional and international airports all combine to provide peak efficiency.


Quality of Life
State-of-the-art medical centers and regional hospitals are strategically located for convenient service to the residents of the area’s small towns and cities. Facilities range from off-hours emergency clinics and 50-bed community hospitals to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center with a variety of specialties and over 700 beds. Community wellness programs and education programs are prolific, and many hospitals maintain a regular schedule of visiting specialists.

Area schools combine a traditional curriculum with high technology advancements, computer instruction, special programs for the gifted and challenged, and a full complement of extra-curricular activities. Vocational and technical schools, along with junior and community colleges, provide quality training programs for area businesses and continuing education for adults of all ages. Shepherd College and Frostburg State University offers four-year degree programs, while the West Virginia University Graduate Center provides the opportunity to earn graduate degrees close to home.
Although a wave of prosperity has accompanied the surge of new business and residential development, the region has managed to preserve its rural charm and small-town atmosphere. In the summertime, roadside stands display the freshest of home-grown fruits and vegetables. Residents can look forward to meeting their friends and neighbors at the local supermarket or greeting them at the community theatre. School activities and junior sports leagues are community events made for cheering and conversing, while quiet town streets shaded by large old trees invite leisurely walks on cool summer evenings.

Celebrating the passage of four distinct and vibrant seasons is easy in this region, where festivals and celebrations honor the past and add excitement and color to daily life. The Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival held each June and September draws craftspeople from across the nation, providing visitors with entertainment, delicious food and outstanding artistic exhibits. October brings the Apple Butter Festival to Berkeley Springs, while Martinsburg presents the Apple Harvest Festival and Hagerstown, Maryland is home of Hagerfest. Washington County’s Alsatia Mummers parade at Halloween attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Although the world-class cultural amenities of Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC are easily accessible to residents of this serene rural area, professional and local talent fill the calendar with exciting events in home-town venues. Theatres, summer productions, symphonies, dance troupes, galleries, universities and county arts councils ensure a rich supply of cultural stimulation.

Aficionados of shopping can take their time browsing through the downtown districts and small shopping centers in this picturesque region, a veritable warehouse of antiques, crafts and collectibles. Although Funkstown in Washington County has been dubbed “the antique capital,” many of the area’s municipalities are havens for antique dealers, quaint bookstores, galleries, old-fashioned hardware stores and fascinating craft boutiques. Berkeley Springs in Morgan County as well as Charles Town in Jefferson County and Martinsburg in Berkeley County are particularly known for their delightful retail developments.

Students of history will find this region enthralling, from intriguing local and regional museums to some of the most famous Civil War sites in the nation. Antietam, the bloodiest day in American history, is only a 20-minute drive from Hagerstown. Just across the Potomac River from Antietam is Shepherdstown, which served as a haven for the wounded. Nearby Harpers Ferry is the site where John Brown’s Raid focused the attention of the entire nation upon the slavery issue. In Charles Town, you can see the stately courthouse where Brown was tried and convicted of treason. Even today, this region is a melding of traditions from both the North and the South with the independent spirit of the mountaineers.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find adventure at every turn, from rafting, canoeing and kayaking on whitewater rivers to fishing on placid lakes or gentle streams. Exciting raceways and thoroughbred race tracks, lush golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools, skating rinks, sweeping parklands, vast wildlife preserves and world-class resorts are all waiting to be explored in Western Maryland and the Eastern Panhandle.

A short drive through the surrounding river valleys and mountains will bring you to an incredible array of activities and sites. Whitetail Ski Resort is just a half-hour from the Antietam Battlefield, while Wisp Ski and Golf Resort is nestled in the Deep Creek Lake area of Garrett County. To the east, you’ll find the Potomac Eagle scenic train in Romney and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The tiny Berkeley Springs State Park remains as inviting as it was in George Washington’s day, with its warm, mineral springs bath and fountain. Just across the Potomac River in Maryland is the C&O Canal with miles of towpath trails for hiking and biking. Buck Valley Ranch is an ideal place for horseback riding in neighboring Pennsylvania, although you can saddle up at a number of facilities in Western Maryland and the Eastern Panhandle.
Housing options in this region are as beautiful and diverse as the rolling terrain, from stately old farm houses to country mansions. Older homes in the heart of a small-town neighborhood or historic colonials and charming Victorians are often graced by large old shade trees and meticulous landscaping. Flower and vegetable gardens, horse properties, productive farms and sprawling orchards can all be found in the region’s fertile valleys or nestled beneath its alpine ridges. Regardless of the county or city you choose to call home, you’ll find that volunteerism and civic pride enhance the quality of life for the entire community. Don’t be surprised to find a sack of fresh vegetables on your doorstep from your neighbor’s garden. A warm greeting and a helping hand reflect the close-knit spirit that makes Western Maryland and the Eastern Panhandle such an idyllic place to call home.

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