There's No Turning Back the Future
by M.L. Faunce

After a recent trip to Disney World, my seven-year-old niece, Katie, reminded me of words that greeted us on entering the Haunted House, an attraction somewhere between Frontier Land and Tomorrow Land: "Remember, there's no turning back," she mimicked as we drove home.

The same could be said of the place where we live. Was said again and again as the South County and Deale-Shady Side Small Area Planning Committees held their first public forums over the last two weeks.

Citizens had been invited to join small discussion groups, each with a citizen and professional planner, to share what they saw as the strengths and problems of their small area as well as their vision for the future. Those who turned out, 105 in South County and 162 in Deale-Shady Side, had no trouble identifying what drew them and keeps them here.

The water, the wildlife, trees, open space, the farms, a slower pace.

Bill Pinkney, of West River for 60 years, spoke of "the trees and the land and the little country towns" and how he'd enjoyed "strong community ties" that he'd like to see preserved. A glass blower and minister at House of Prayer, Pinkney described how, as a hunter, he was able for many years "to walk in the woods, to kill a squirrel or a rabbit and go about my business."

But, added Pinkney, "that's changing."

That was the second theme sounded by citizen after citizen in both community meetings. Everybody knew development was coming but most - typically all but one per table of 8 to 12 - hoped to slow it down considerably.

In the words of retired Southern High teacher and coach Tom Tereshinski of Galesville: "We're trying to keep development from closing in."

Pinkney and Tereshinski are two points in the rich diversity that Mike Shay of Churchton, among others, praised as another quality of life in Southern Anne Arundel County. "The rich diversity of all kinds of people living here and working here is one of our greatest assets," said Shay.

"That's part of the magic," noted Andy Garte of Shady Side, sitting at another round table during the Deale-Shady Side May 11 forum at the West River United Methodist Camp. "There's a real genuine collection of people of diverse backgrounds and experiences, all meeting on equal footing."

The South County forum met a week earlier at Southern High School.

Equal footing also means sharing narrow roads and growing traffic problems, a concern many shared with Joe Rooney of High View on the Bay, who cited the number of roadside crosses as evidence of an "intolerable" problem.

Diversity unfolded as citizens from many walks of life walked in, signed up and sat around tables to discuss the future. Teachers, watermen, retirees, environmentalists, police officers, pilots, horse farmers, government workers, civic leaders, librarians, small business owners and more put in their two cents' worth, opinions worth their weight in gold to county planners. Citizens tackled the questions earnestly, searching out the right words for the visions, and listened intently. At each table, a planner compiled all comments so that the entire committee could consider them all.

From those voices, the sense of place lamented as absent or vanishing in other parts of Maryland and our nation proved alive and well in Southern Anne Arundel County.

When newcomers from Ohio and Pennsylvania said "living here has been like coming home" to the small towns where they grew up, they offered possibly the best explanation why, when asked for their vision of the future, many saw an area that looks a lot like the neighborhood they now know and treasure.

'We want to preserve local history, rural heritage, wetlands and farmlands,' many said. "One of the last unspoiled places in the world," said horsewoman Cynthia Weisberg-Broadie, adding, in her next breath, the concern so many shared: "But it's going fast."

The goal in the year-long planning process is to develop a common vision for our area. By this time next year, the discussions and work of the Deale-Shady Side and South County Small Area Planning Committees will be over. The vision, discussed over the coming year and referred again to citizens at another public forum next January, will help planners, the county council and the county executive shape the county for the next 25 years.

Listening to people wax poetic about the land they love, you'd think they lived in the Magic Kingdom. In reality, the narrow road they travel winds between Frontier Land and Tomorrow Land. On that road, there's no turning back - but there's lots to be done in shaping the landscape. Join in.


The South County Small Area Planning Committee meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 6-8pm at Southern High: 410/222-7432. The Deale-Shady Side Committee meets first and third Tuesdays from 5:30-7:30pm at Galesville Hall: 410/222-7502. You are welcome to all meetings. Typically, each begins with a special topic, continues with committee discussion and ends with citizen comments.


Faunce is a contributing editor at New Bay Times and citizen planner with the Deale-Shady Side Committee.

| Issue 21 |

Volume VII Number 21
May 27 - June 2, 1999
New Bay Times

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