You’re a “bridge burner”…

….said Renny, my friend and neighbor.

OUCH.

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.

bumperstickeronly

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?

Yes.

~ by kbosin on March 1, 2013.

15 Responses to “You’re a “bridge burner”…”

  1. Well said my friend, well said.

  2. I wonder if sometimes people from ‘away’ like us have the eyes to see some things that are really worth preserving that might be missed by long time residents. That’s an over simplification of course, and if we want to have a say, we are going to put in a lot a lot of time and energy, especially in the listening carefully to all sides of the story… hard, but worth it… and obviously something you do quite well… thanks for this… If Mayberry isn’t an example of a place worth preserving, I don’t know what is…

  3. On Kent Island the citizens are currently protesting plans to turn locally-owned “R’s Americantina” into another McDonald’s – so there would be a McD’s on both the East and Westbound sides of Route 50 on Kent Island. There was a public hearing on Tuesday, and so far the activism seems to have made a difference. Stopping growth is impossible – we can’t “burn the bridge” – but growth needs to reflect the values and aspirations of the people who live here. The only thing I see this McD’s project bringing is a traffic problem and lower-paying jobs (i.e. jobs at the existing R’s more high-quality than jobs at McD’s). Possible crime & hit to property values. I hope Queen Anne’s County can follow Talbot County’s lead in this area! At the moment it seems they don’t represent their constituents very well.

  4. Amen! … and pass the beaten biscuits, please! cj

  5. p.s. The McD’s would literally be the first thing drivers see when exiting the Bay Bridge. If you are interested in following the progress of this, R’s is regularly posting about it on their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/RsAmericantina. I have struggled with a way to post about it on my Blog without being overly political. Bravo – you have (as usual) hit the nail on the head with your well-balanced post, Kathy.

  6. Amanda, thanks – I will follow it, Kent Island is a great example to watch as development pushes its way across the bridge. A swampy, marshy island with increasing numbers of people and businesses…..how many McDonalds do we need/want?

    • Exactly. Actually I shold correct myself – Hemingway’s is THE first thing people see when “landing” on the Eastern Shore – an attractive & well-maintained mid-priced seafood restaurant. McD’s would be the first drive-through opportunity, in a shopping area that already has a KFC & taking the place of the locally-owned R’s Americantina. As you can imagine there is a lot of heated conversation going on right now.

  7. I live in Southern Maryland on the Western Shore, and I’ve watched the same events unfold here during the last two decades; the chain restaurants & fast food joints, the big box stores, and the conversion of beautiful farmland into tract housing…. We’ve basically lost much of the character that made this area unique; now we’re just another suburb of Washington DC.

    If I lived on the Eastern Shore, I’d burn that bridge too.

    • yes, I watched Prince Frederick turn into something entirely unlike itself, and look at St. Mary’s County as an example of “development gone wild”. It is another DC suburb.

  8. I can Only speak for the last 40 + years in Talbot County,But There was Nothing On Rt 50 worth saving a couple junk yards and a few Liquor Stores,Nothing in St Michaels either,The Main problem I see was the “People Impact”the Waste Water plants ruined the quality of Life for the local people,by Allowing more people,and killing the Rivers and Tributaries,think about this “When they Brought The Toilet Inside and put the Heater Outside “was the Beginning of the END….Talbot is now tipped over the Edge,The Rivers,Widlife,Farmland and Small Rural Communities Are forever Extinct! But obviously this is what Bridge Burners want!

    • Well, it’s hard not to be “for” indoor toilets in today’s world, but I hear you. More and more septic systems crammed into a shrinking landscape aren’t a good answer either. I’ve seen plenty of old properties around here where the waste oozes up into the yard. (Including toilet paper – uck.)

  9. When I was a kid all the house sewerage went in the ditch or overboard,as probably did since the beginning of time,Oysters grew on the pipe,that is not the problem,the problem is The Waste Water Plants,they are mis- managed and not able to adequately handle Storms,super high tide,or a busy weekend! You don’t have to be a Scientist to see that Money dictated Growth in the 60’s and 70’s,for instance StMichaels Harbor,Perry Cabin,even The Museum destroyed precious Wetlands!Now everybody wants a clean river and pristine farmland,well it’s too late,They Paved Paradise and Put In A Parking Lot!

  10. A very good post…I know and understand how you feel.

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