CUMBERLAND -- In what could be billed as the summit on a summit, the governors of Maryland and West Virginia met on a hilltop near here and pledged to help each other achieve economic relief for hard-hit counties along the border of the two states.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer, joined yesterday at a day-long meeting by West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton, said the two states will work closely on a number of projects "so that little invisible boundary between Maryland and West Virginia does not hold us apart, but brings us together."
The two governors said they will pool some state resources to spark joint developments in economic, environmental, tourism, transportation and public safety initiatives.
"If West Virginia grows, we grow," said Schaefer. "If we grow, West Virginia grows."
The governors agreed to work on a number of projects, including:
* Planning a joint trade mission abroad to promote timber and coal exports.
* Developing a cooperative solid-waste-management system to serve both sides of the North Branch of the Potomac River.
* Beginning a region-wide plan for improvements at Cumberland Regional Airport.
* Deploying joint teams of the National Guard to destroy marijuana crops.
* Promoting tourism to Maryland's Deep Creek Lake area and West Virginia's Canaan Valley.
The unusual meeting arose from a budding friendship between the two chief executives, who met at a National Governors Association meeting last year. As dozens of high-ranking officials listened, Schaefer and Caperton lobbed love bombs throughout the day and promised to continue their efforts to bring the states closer together.
Caperton, in the midst of his first term as governor, called Schaefer "my mentor" and predicted that yesterday's two-state summit will benefit the residents of Western Maryland and the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.
"When east meets west here," he said, "we can clearly define our problems."
Schaefer returned Caperton's compliments, calling the younger governor "a man with vision."
The goodwill of the meeting was momentarily threatened -- but not disrupted -- when two small groups of placard-waving protesters greeted Schaefer as he rode to and from the Cumberland Country Club, where the meeting was held. One group was critical of the governor for signing abortion-rights legislation; the other, a half-dozen members of a Frostburg State University Republican club, chided Schaefer for saying he is thinking about running for the presidency.
In a break from the meetings, the governors rode in Schaefer's "Do It Now" tour bus to Frankfort High School outside the small West Virginia mountain town of Short Gap. The two governors inspected the school's computer classroom and watched its championship basketball team practice during a "photo opportunity" arranged for the press. Later, Schaefer and Caperton posed for photographers as they lifted a light barbell.