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Harrisburg area Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties
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Old 06-25-2017, 02:00 PM
Location: Sterling, VA
12 posts, read 12,043 times
Reputation: 17


We're still in the online research part of deciding where to go to get away from the DC suburbs. The Harrisburg area gets high marks in most categories, e.g., Camp Hill, Mechanicsburg, and Hershey a little ways farther out. But the air quality and pollution index for all 3 are lousy. Pollution index for the first two is 117% worse than the national average (!!). We don't have respiratory problems, thank goodness, but we're certainly wondering if this is a big enough negative to exclude the area. What do you all think? And what are the pluses and minuses in general for that area? Thanks!
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Old 06-27-2017, 07:58 AM
4,267 posts, read 10,390,509 times
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The air pollution index you are looking at is likely by county. Cumberland County has significant logistics infrastructure (aka lots of "monster warehouses"), with diesel trucks to and fro all the time spewing exhaust, and the central/western portions still have a lot of production agriculture. While some of those warehouses are also in Dauphin County, they are less dominant. Some corporate or trust owned land surrounding Hershey is still in production agriculture with occasional spring or fall manure spreading.

Odors from peanut roasting at the Reese's factory are relatively common in Hershey. When chocolate production and the distinction of "world's largest chocolate factory" moved to the new location across the tracks from the Reese plant (the "West Hershey" chocolate plant is surprisingly hidden, despite its huge size), most smells of chocolate disappeared. Even though both factories are owned by The Hershey Company, West Hershey is unionized and Reese is not. They share a monster warehouse (contracted out) that's out the far east end of Hersheypark Drive straddling the county line.

Dauphin County trends a bit more multicultural and multiracial, but variably so by community. The Cumberland County western suburbs of Harrisburg, often grouped as "West Shore" (a term not necessarily limited to the school district by that name, depending on usage also includes Camp Hill, Mechanicsburg, Enola, and sometimes even Marysville addresses) tend to be whiter, giving rise to a sometimes pejorative "White Shore" rubric. Carlisle is a bit less lily-white, as in addition to a historically Black area it also hosts worldly folks at US Army War College (the President of Egypt is an alumnus) and Dickinson College. Politically Cumberland County is as conservative as NoVA was in the Reagan era, and in local politics Dauphin County is almost as conservative among those actually in charge.

Baltimore and DC are still close enough for driving day trips. (This proximity and cheaper real estate is what drives all those trucks and their air pollution to the area.)

There are enough NoVA refugees in Hershey almost to seem like a trend. However, retired military folks usually wind up on the west shore, where the three bases (US Army Carlisle Barracks, and the Navy and DLA monster warehouses) are.

On the East Shore, one plus is that frequent Amtrak service (Harrisburg station is a pain due to pricey parking, Middletown doesn't have much parking and its station is moving closer to the airport so will likely have a paid lot soon, Elizabethtown so far has free parking but numbered spaces suggest that might change soon) allows easy weekend or even day trips to Philadelphia and New York City. Also, it's fairly common for families to have season passes to Hersheypark, considering free parking and food discounts a pre-purchased pass is paid for after two visits.

The West Shore has a slight shopping advantage. Often the big boxes will have two Harrisburg area locations, but if only one is warranted, it seems to be on the west side. Wegmans is an example of this - if that's your go-to place, Hershey is just too far from it for regular trips.

Harrisburg area, either shore, lacks all of Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Apple store, IKEA, Nordstrom, REI, Crate & Barrel, etc. Many of those places might have their closest locations in Baltimore County (Timonium, Towson, etc.) especially from the West Shore, or possibly King of Prussia - consider Turnpike toll, vs. difference in MD & PA tax rates and taxable items.

There is an Apple store in Lancaster, which is also getting both a Whole Foods and a Wegmans. Their computer models must be slightly friendlier to Lancaster County with its incrementally higher populations both center city and metro, even though Plain Sect (e.g. Amish) people probably don't shop at those kinds of places. Lancaster shoppy places are real time closer to many Hershey/Hummelstown address areas than the way out Mechanicsburg address locations of West Shore big boxes. Lancaster, Harrisburg, and York share a TV market (larger than Las Vegas') and the 717 area code (soon to be overlayed), but are considered separate metropolitan areas by the Census Bureau.

Of the nameless triad, Harrisburg, with its logistics and the state capital, is usually considered more transplant-friendly than Lancaster which has a greater natural increase. York and Chambersburg area growth is to a first approximation McMansion/2nd Amendment spillover from MD, though both also have logistics and York still has significant manufacturing base.
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Old 07-01-2017, 06:09 PM
Location: Sterling, VA
12 posts, read 12,043 times
Reputation: 17
Thank you for your comprehensive answer. Message received: the area has no redeeming characteristics whatsoever, and additional people from the DC area are not welcome. I got it.
Just out of curiosity, is there an area in the US---or anywhere in the world for that matter---that you like, would recommend, have positive things to say about, or do not feel is a complete dump?
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Old 07-06-2017, 01:13 PM
4,267 posts, read 10,390,509 times
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Not sure what you read into my post.

We have had a number of folks move into the Harrisburg area from DC. Camp Hill, Mechanicsburg, Carlisle, and Hershey are relatively relocatee friendly, speaking myself as someone who originated from away as many have here. I do not detect any particular resentment toward these folks - nothing like what rural Oregonians think of Californians, or upstate New Yorkers think of downstaters coming in. NEPA seems to seethe with resentment towards NY/NJ folks moving out to that area, but I really don't get that kind of vibe in the 717.

Some feel the western suburbs of Lancaster are relocatee friendly, too. And Lancaster City is likely more appealing this decade than Harrisburg for those who favor townhouse or small-lot-line housing types.

There are always trade-offs in moving, pluses and minuses to any community. Harrisburg seems relatively deficient in shopping for the population base of the area, possibly due to locational algorithm quirks. As far as air pollution, we do have both town and country sources thereof. It's not 1948 Donora by any stretch of the imagination, but some sub-populations could be sensitive to one or both kinds.

If you want a smaller-suburb type feeling that still has a Nordstrom nearby, perhaps the Wilmington DE area could appeal to you. Spillover development from there continues into southwestern Chester County, PA, although local contrasts there on a sub-township sub-zipcode level between seven or eight figure homes, and mushroom farms and associated signs for services in Spanish language, could be jarring.
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Old 07-06-2017, 09:44 PM
61 posts, read 64,171 times
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I've lived just east of the Harrisburg suburb of Colonial Park now for less than one year (relocated from another region of Pennsylvania) and I am quite content. The nearest mall or restaurant is only 5 minutes away, hospitals and doctors offices are plentiful, and I'm close enough to have a relatively short commute into the city for work (20 minutes give or take), yet far enough from the city to be out of the crime areas. What I personally love about the area is that you have the city, the suburbs (both east shore and west shore), outlying farmlands, and mountain regions to the north - all in the same region. Oh and I find the Susquehanna river to be quite beautiful, especially during the summer (though not sure if it's the cleanest...)!

I tend to do research on all surrounding Harrisburg areas and as mentioned above by ki0eh each area has its own pros and cons, it depends on what you want and your preference. I would say that my most favorite place in Pennsylvania is Happy Valley (Penn State/State College area). It's like the Harrisburg area but smaller and has a lot less crime, and of course has more of a college feel than an adult/political atmosphere. In fact the school districts up there have been rated as some of the best in the state! Only problem is jobs are more limited up there than they are in the Harrisburg region (Penn State University is the largest employer by far). Some people live in Happy Valley and drive/bus down to work in Harrisburg and back every day, but that's 1.5 hours one way on a good day!

I have noticed that ironically even though the city of Harrisburg resides on the east shore (Dauphin county), the west shore areas like Camp Hill and Mechanicsburg in Cumberland county seem to have worse traffic (possibly because of the growing suburban sprawl of the area). Seems like out here Cumberland county has the best school districts and more of them, though Dauphin county has a few good school districts like Derry (Hershey area) and Lower Dauphin. Best of luck to you, if you decide to move to the area I hope it welcomes you as well as it has me!
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Old 08-14-2017, 09:47 PM
25 posts, read 103,387 times
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We moved here from DC. I came for a job offer, my wife was hesitant to relocate. I have had several jobs since that one and have had options to relocate. We are still in Camp Hill because she loves the area and doesn't want to leave. Prior to DC she lived in NYC and Chicago and never thought she would leave the big city.

You would be welcome in the area of Camp Hill we live. Several people on our street moved here from DC metro.
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