You’re a “bridge burner”…
….said Renny, my friend and neighbor.
He said this after hearing me go off about recent developments in nearby Easton, where the main highway taking western shore people to Ocean City is turning into the same Target – Lowes – Bob Evans – Ruby Tuesday scene that has been cut and pasted coast to coast. Driving down a portion of this road, by the looks of the businesses there, you could be in Michigan, Massachusetts, California, Nebraska, Tennessee or Ohio. Anywhere, USA – it all looks the same, and the pumpkin muffie at Panera tastes exactly the same from sea to shining sea.
I guess you can tell how I feel about it. It feels like we’re losing our uniqueness, we’re losing “place” in this country, and we’re generating a commercialized, McDonaldized built environment in which the big corporations win, and the rest of us lose. Why go anywhere if it all looks, feels and tastes the same?
I’m delighted with this little rural peninsula, in which the only “chains” are the gas station franchises between Easton and Tilghman Island. The rest are small businesses owned by neighbors that actually live here.
Which brings me to bridge burning. Here’s a bridge burner’s bumper sticker, seen in St. Michaels.
Renny was referring to all of the people – like me – who come here from somewhere else (other side), and then don’t want anything to change, even though WE’VE changed the place by showing up and moving in. We get here, build our sprawling waterfront houses and then want to stop “development” so that nobody else can come behind us. Might as well burn that big ol’ Bay Bridge and keep things like they were in the 1950s…
As if that were an option.
What is an option, though, is targeted land use planning. And around here, we’re lucky to have a couple of things in play. From Governor O’Malley’s Smart Growth policy to the Talbot County Council’s efforts to let citizens direct land use plans through the comprehensive planning process by allowing the 22 villages in Talbot to define their own growth strategies. More on that later.
And certainly – the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ELSC), which has been around since 1990, and not only targets and places land in permanent conservation easements, but influences land use and growth in the northern and mid-shore counties (lobbying, legislation, lawsuits). We’re lucky to have their efforts to strengthen towns as economic engines of the Shore, while preserving and protecting rural lands.
You’ll hear more about this after I go later today to tour the McCord Laundry building in Easton – an old industrial property that the ESLC plans to renovate into a conservation center – a home for offices and such for local non profits that are involved with the environment. It’s a big step, and they need people to join in right now, by pledging dollars for the building restoration, which will have a great impact in Easton.
Burn the bridge? No.
Stop growth? No. We can only expect the population of the Shore to grow in the future, as the megalopolis squeezes and boomers retire and more and more people want out of the pressurized fast life.
But smart growth?