Eastern Panhandle booms with D.C. folk

- By Melanie Eversley USA TODAY

The northeast part of West Virginia saw a population boom between 2000 and 2010 as people from the Washington, D.C., metropolit­an area moved in, Census figures released Wednesday show.

Newcomers are looking for greener acres and a less expensive, better-quality life, said Christiadi, a demographe­r with the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

“They work in the D.C. area, but they are moving into the Eastern Panhandle region searching for better and cheaper housing,” said Christiadi, who has only one name. “The trend will likely continue.”

Overall, West Virginia grew 2.5% from 2000 through 2010 to 1.85 million people.

Of its 20 largest counties, Berkeley saw the most growth. The county, anchored by Martinsbur­g, grew 37% to 104,169. Martinsbur­g was one of eight cities, of the state’s 20 largest, that grew; it increased 15% to 17,227, the largest percentage increase of those cities. Martinsbur­g is about 95 miles from Washington, D.C.

“It’s a very easy commute,” said Carol Goolsby of the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Developmen­t Council.

The Maryland Area Regional Commuter Train Service has three stops in West Virginia and carries 500 to 550 people a day into the Washington area.

Of the five most populous incorporat­ed places, Morgantown was the only one that saw growth, increasing almost 11% to 29,660 residents, most likely because of the growth of West Virginia University, Goolsby said.

Many cities that lost population were continuing a trend that originated in the 1970s when mining jobs began to decline, Christiadi said. Wheeling lost the largest percentage of people, shrinking 9%.

Charleston, the capital, remained the state’s largest city, at 51,400 residents.

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