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Harrisburg area Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties
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Old 08-24-2014, 11:11 PM
6 posts, read 6,541 times
Reputation: 13


Hello everyone,
Thanks for reading my post. I just returned from my first trip to the west shore of Harrisburg, PA. It was my first time ever in PA and was visiting in anticipation of relocation there for my husband's job in Camp Hill. We were able to explore a good portion of Cumberland Valley, but did not get through some areas. I was getting slightly frustrated until we stumbled upon the areas of Carlisle and Boiling Springs. These areas felt a lot more like "home" but quite honestly I didn't have a huge amount of time to investigate by the time we found them. Both towns were very charming in character. I have a few questions I am hoping you can help me with.

1. Understanding that CV schools are top rated, I also realize it is a HUGE district. I think South Middleton or Carlisle may be a better fit for our kids size-wise. Does anyone out there have comments about either of these districts? I have done my research, but there are some things statistics just don't tell you. What is the culture of these schools like? Accepting of newbies? Progressive? Reputation?

2. What are some GREAT things locals like about these areas/what are some things you wish were different?

3. We stumbled upon a couple of new housing developments in this area in which we visited their models. Does anyone have any comments about these areas? (I would prefer NOT to build, but if necessary would do so...)

4. At one point during our visit, we drove past a church called West Shore Evangelical Free Church... looked really big. Anyone have any experience with this church? How far of a drive is it from this area to the church?

We currently reside on the outskirts of Minneapolis. I love the rural/suburban setting we live in. It is a close knit community that has a lot of pride in it's town and school district. Shopping is limited here, but just a 15-20 minute drive alleviates that problem. I never thought I would say this having grown up in a busy suburb, but I love it here. If we can find a similar situation, it would make this cross-country move a lot easier!!!

Thanks so much everyone!!!
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Old 08-25-2014, 08:58 AM
4,267 posts, read 10,407,424 times
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I suspect you will have already seen that lots typically run smaller than in the Midwest, and a few acres to stash jet skis, old tractors, etc. is harder to find than probably most places in MN/WI/MI.

You should also note that in PA townships are the fundamental units of local government, zoning rules vary by township and zoning district rules are not standardized from one township to the next. The hyper-localism is usually looked at as a disadvantage from the standpoint of efficient delivery of public services, but aesthetically there can be something to be said for being able to turn a corner and seeming to move back a century or more.

Carlisle is fairly large as well (as PA districts go). The kids are on many more places on a full spectrum than in CV, ethnically and economically. Dickinson College and the US Army War College spice up the area a bit (as in, the father of your school friend might become a military dictator in a few years Insight: In small American town, a window into Egyptian general's past | Reuters ). There is more interchange of population with the outside world than is typical for PA. By no means is the area leftie haven, one often gets Tea Party rhetoric with natural foods.

South Middleton is smaller, more homogeneous suburban/rural, possibly not quite as transient population-wise but still more so than typical for PA. The CV border is close, you could be in Churchtown or White Rock Acres with a Boiling Springs address but still CV schools (Monroe Twp).

The southern half of Cumberland Valley (not just the school district, but the larger geographical feature) rests on limestone bedrock. In these areas, generally south of US 11 (which would include nearly all of South Middleton, unless you are in the wooded hills far to the south), watch for sinkholes and make sure subsidence insurance is priced into your cost. If you are north of the very meandering Conodoguinet Creek in North Middleton/Middlesex/Silver Spring/Hampden, you would probably be on the more stable shale bedrock. (No, not the same type of shale as the gas frackers target.)

The shopping in what seems to be your target area (CV school/Mechanicsburg postal address) is about the best in the Harrisburg metro. The Wegmans grocery store chain is the envy of the East Coast and there actually is one here. However, the nearest Apple store is 1 hr away in Lancaster, or that with Nordstrom, IKEA, Crate and Barrel, REI, etc. is 1.5-2 hr one way drive (on a weekend, add many more minutes for weekday rush) to Baltimore suburbs.

Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia are all accessible for a weekend day trip for your family. New York City is a quick weekend, or maybe a long day with a relatively restful and frequent train service from Harrisburg (or free parking at Elizabethtown).

The proximity of all these larger cities to Carlisle and Harrisburg has been noticed by the trucking industry, with many many trucks, and monster warehouses seemingly springing up overnight (maybe even in your backyard, remember the hyper-local zoning rules).

On weekdays, you will find that the highways are poorly designed with choke points and bottlenecks awaiting years-off multi-tens-of-million dollar fixes. Someone on here posted a link with "congestion roses" showing routine traffic delays. Harrisburg's is as extensive as Atlanta's. Yes, Atlanta, that notoriously sprawled Southern city that hosted an Olympics with the busiest airport. So this B-level metro has big city level traffic. (But no, not as bad as Washington DC, or Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that share the legacy of idiots decades ago in PENNDOT.)

About ten years back the Cumberland County Commissioners shot down as some commie socialist type tax grab, the idea that the streak of rust railroad passing right through the hearts of Carlisle, Mechanicsburg, Camp Hill and Lemoyne could be turned into a light rail system speeding all the state employees past the traffic to their jobs in Harrisburg's Capitol Complex. If you happen to be working on days like Presidents' Day or Columbus Day, you can experience the difference that might have made.

So, unless you are really into the farmette lifestyle, there is probably no reason to, and reasons not to, live too far from the office.

You will surely laugh at what people call "cold and windy" in the 717. Snow, however, often comes not an inch or two at a time, but in large wet dumps finishing up as (or maybe just as) ice. Schools frequently delay opening at just the threat of this or can close for two days if one actually hits.
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Old 08-25-2014, 01:44 PM
Location: Central Texas. Wait, I mean South Texas. Actually, both Central and South Texas
317 posts, read 488,512 times
Reputation: 373
If you are interested in the West Shore I would look at Camp Hill. It is one of, if not the best, school district in the Harrisburg area. Although, Camp Hill is firmly suburban and not rural. If you want more of a rural feel with a great school district you could look at Hummelstown (Lower Dauphin Schools) or Hershey on the East Shore. Lower Dauphin, Camp Hill and Hershey are probably the best public schools in the Harrisburg Area. But your dollar will go further in Boiling Springs or Carlisle.
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Old 08-27-2014, 05:16 PM
11 posts, read 14,255 times
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I second the "Camp Hill" suggestion. It's a great place. You may also want to try Mechanicsburg or New Cumberland. All 3 towns mentioned are safe areas with good schools and plenty of things to do. They're also all quite close to your husband's new job. Depending on where you're looking in Carlisle, it can be a bit of a hike to get to Camp Hill during rush hour.

If you want to be on the east side of Harrisburg, then Hershey & Hummelstown are good areas.

To answer your question #2:
Things I love about this area: A lot of things to do (minor league sports games, MeetUp groups, kids activities, churches, farmer's markets, parks, restaurants, etc). Some of my favorites are the Harrisburg City Islanders outdoor soccer and Harrisburg Heat indoor soccer. Both are reasonably priced for families. I also really enjoy some of the restaurants in downtown Harrisburg as well as Black & Bleu in Mechanicsburg. The West Shore theater in New Cumberland is a great little theater with VERY reasonable rates. It's a small, second-run theater that shows only 2 movies at a time. I think the highest price tickets are Fri/Sat nights and they're maybe $5 or $6.
There's also cute community theatres like the Oyster Mill Playhouse, Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg & Mt Gretna outdoor theater. Harrisburg has the Whitaker Center & Imax movies.

This area is also great for day-trips. There's so much to do within 1.5 hours: Baltimore, HersheyPark, farms for apple-picking, Raystown Lake (1 hr 45 mins), state parks for camping & hiking, and the Poconos are maybe 2(?) hr away.

Things I wish were different: Better mass transit system. More museums. Maybe a larger college. I really enjoy the theater/guest lecturers/sporting events of colleges and there just aren't too many to choose from within a 20-30 min drive.

Good luck in your search!! Best wishes to you.
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Old 08-27-2014, 10:12 PM
6 posts, read 6,541 times
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Thanks for your suggestions! To be very honest, we felt very claustrophobic in Camp Hill. As mentioned earlier, we live on the fringe of Minneapolis suburbs currently. I love the idea of the school district, but not sure I love the "crowdedness" of the area.

I am kinda hung up on the quality of the schools. I found the PERFECT house in the West Shore district, but when I look at the reviews, I am not super impressed. Sometimes though, I realize that these reviews can be slightly off kilter. There is a lot that is unsaid. I wish I could visit every school district, but time won't allow for that. Basically, I would ultimately like to have CV school quality in a slightly more spread out area. It doesn't have to be rural, just slightly larger. (I think our lot now is .40 acre)

We've got some time, and will likely visit again this fall or winter, but would love some ideas on desirable neighborhoods to visit when I return. Any comments on quality builders is much desired too. I didn't see any that I recognized when out there, but liked our friend's house which was EG Stoltzfus built.

Thanks again!
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Old 08-28-2014, 08:13 AM
4,267 posts, read 10,407,424 times
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There are some newer-build larger lot subdivision areas in the far west ends of Silver Spring and Monroe Twps (still CV) and also on the east sides of Middlesex (Carlisle Area SD, as previously mentioned rates above average, our friends there same age seem to be more engaged elementary school wise than our daughter is in Derry Twp), and South Middleton (also rates above average) Townships. These areas border the Appalachian Trail corridor across the valley (which follows Ironstone Ridge, a low valley-crossing feature that is also the township line definer). Map: http://www.satc-hike.org/documents/c...-trail-map.pdf If you're not able to just drive around and look at signs, you could try to find these by scrolling around on your favorite real estate mapping website.

Camp Hill Borough, and the more typical newer subdivisions, do feel more crammed-in than most of the Midwest.
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Old 08-28-2014, 10:00 AM
1,010 posts, read 3,614,847 times
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Honestly... I would say that with your emphasis on quality CV is your best choice on the West Shore. (Bias: I live in CV)

Camp Hill is a good district but not what you're looking for. West Shore is a little more mixed, not as many programs.

Yes, CV is big but the elementary schools are manageable (I am not a fan of the class size increases we have had, however; be aware that Hampden is the most crowded school and almost all classes are at or over enrollment caps, with one fourth grade having 32 kids last year). Good Hope Middle is also in need of relief and there are plans being discussed to upgrade the facilities. The bigger lots along Wertzville Road go to Shaull or Green Ridge. Current enrollment figures aren't available yet and last year's have been pulled, so I can't see how the class sizes are going this year.

It seems that Hampden Twp has been going for 1/4 - 1/2 acre lots in most developments, though there are some individual lots that are larger and a couple of luxury developments with big lots. Silver Spring has more large lots, I think. Middlesex Twp also has bigger lots, but a much smaller elementary school--specials teachers rotate between Middlesex and Monroe.
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Old 08-28-2014, 07:45 PM
6 posts, read 6,541 times
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This is super helpful AlexisT. Can you give me an objective viewpoint about Carlisle, South Middleton or Northern York Schools? Maybe you don't know much about them, but anything you know would be awesome.

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Old 02-14-2015, 08:59 AM
Location: Seattle Washington
49 posts, read 54,461 times
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How big of an issue is racism for African American families considering Carlisle, Harrisburg and or Hershey as an option? I have small children that will possibly be integrating into the school system and i'm very concerned.
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