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Tri-State Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia

Community Definition and Identity

The tristate COE area “community” is a five-county, three-state area, located within the Appalachian Mountain range. It includes Somerset and Bedford counties in Pennsylvania; Garrett and Allegany counties in Maryland; and Mineral County in West Virginia. The area is characterized by mountainous terrain, small cities and towns, rural areas peppered with farms, small businesses and homes, a variety of natural resources, and extensive land and water routes that can be accessed for outdoor recreation. 

The COE area possesses various waterways, key among them the Potomac River and its north and south branches. The Monongahela, which forms in West Virginia, runs through the area to Pittsburgh, eventually joining the Ohio River. The Youghiogheny, a wild and scenic river and tributary of the Monongahela, flows through Garrett County, Maryland, into western Pennsylvania. This river is a recreational treasure of the COE area. Garrett county is also the home of “Deep Creek,” Maryland’s largest freshwater lake, along with ski resorts and other natural and manmade attractions.  

Our COE community identity is changing, showing ongoing resiliency through generations of hard-scrabble living, particularly through the coal mining and railroading industries. As these and other industrial facilities have evolved and changed, or left the area, the COE group has engaged its creativity and commitment in coming together for the greater good.  

Each county has unique assets, including geographic location, historic treasures, a network of higher education institutions, healthcare facilities, natural resources, and countless recreational offerings. There is deep pride of place in this COE area, consisting of many respectful, caring citizens connected with regional and national social clubs, along with networks of nonprofit organizations that support these counties. At the same time, there are many common challenges, including overall population decline, aging population, obesity and diabetes, business closures, opioid addiction, pockets of poverty, and lack of adequate market-based housing.