Tri-State population shows healthy rise

March 23, 1997


Staff Writer

The Tri-State area grew a healthy 10.9 percent in six years, adding 55,944 new residents, according to 1996 population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week.

"That's what I like about it. It just keeps happening. It's not a fluke," said Martinsburg, W.Va., developer Bruce Van Wyk, who has benefited from the Eastern Panhandle's 13.4 percent growth.

The Panhandle gained 14,389 people, making it one of the area's growth hot spots.

Frederick County, Md., also saw a phenomenal gain of 29,119 people, or 19.4 percent.

Growth was more stagnant in Washington County and southcentral Pennsylvania. Gains of under 5 percent in those counties didn't keep pace with the nationwide growth of 6.5 percent.


"The growth has not been staggering, but it's been steady," said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County (Pa.) Area Development Corp. "What it shows is that the valley and Franklin County are continuing to grow."

Southcentral Pennsylvania is a growth stronghold in the state, which grew by just 1.5 percent in the six-year period.

"The growth that we've seen has occurred in spite of what has generally been seen as a negative downsizing," Ross said.

Much of the region's growth is due to newcomers arriving from Washington, D.C., and its suburbs.

"I guess we're getting our share, given our nearness to centers of activity," said James Knode, president of the Jefferson County (W.Va.) Commission. "On a cultural level, it's enriching to have new and different people to deal with."

For the most part, county government has been able to keep up with the 11.3 percent growth, which translated into 4,053 people, Knode said.

"We're seeing more and more pressure on existing roads," he said. "You see more cars on the road and there's more congestion."

Knode said he would like to see more employers, not just commuters, move into the area.

Population growth has allowed Berkeley County, W.Va., to undertake large projects that it could not otherwise afford, said County Administrator Deborah Sheetenhelm.

For instance, the county expects to break ground this summer on a $1.1 million senior citizen center. Part of that money has come from community development block grants and state grants.

Frederick County has had a tough time keeping up with its growth, especially when it comes to schools, said Planning Director James Shaw.

Even though the county added 5,178 new classroom seats from 1990 to 1996, the schools are still bursting at the seams, he said. Nearly half of the elementary schools suffer from overcrowding.

In the next six years, the county has proposed adding 5,900 more classroom seats.

"Because we're behind the eight-ball now, we're barely keeping up," Shaw said.

The Herald-Mail Articles