Another Juneteenth – A Sestina by Robert Earl Price

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  June 19th  is the day in 1865 when Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.

The order read, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

What became known as general order number 3 was delivered two and a half years after president Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation; this late arrival of the order to end slavery caused cynics in the newly emancipated community to create the term “Juneteenth.”: which meant something extremely late or likely never to arrive.

General Order number 3 is the only known emancipation notice ever given to Negroes.  Imagine the transition from slave to African American without recompense or consideration of citizenship, without a thank you for 250 years of free labor and no share of the massive economy built on your back.

This place a nugget of gold in a sea of clay

Today we stand on precious ground

A stoned arch bridging many an uncertain day

A monument for shoulder-to-the-grindstone will

We come to bear witness and to bare our hearts

Here where the past is buried in the marrow of bones


We are the wind chimed clank and clang of dry bones

A chalice of wisdom from fired clay

Reverent music poured into open hearts

Many colors carpet this hallowed ground

This is a cornerstone of will

The founders’ foresight promised us this day


Raise the pennants and praise the day

The drummer lives in incus bones

Trees planted by the waters of will

A joyful insistence encrypted in this clay

Let hurrahs and hallelujahs shake the ground

And stir the longing in our hearts


Ella scatting an anthem for our hearts

Spirit movers, seekers of a breaking day

The visionary’s broom sweeping this ground

This monument to long buried bones

Tread carefully over this layered clay

Built by communal warriors of one will


On the road to glory by grace and will

The boon of freedom glowing in our hearts

Moisten the yard and tamp down the clay

Fry the fish and fixings to celebrate the day

And set the legends sifting through our bones

Our dancing DNA moonwalking on sacred ground


Today a tower of tolerance stands on hard won ground

Today we acknowledge the power of a righteous will

Today we refresh dreams and replenish the legacy of bones

Today our heroes rest in the shelter of our hearts

Today a day like no other day

Today we patina the world in a crust of clay


Praise to this persistent will, that seized this day

Protect this swirling ground and blood mottled clay

Place the merit bones of our past safe in the trove of our hearts








Oxford Prepares for Plein Air 2017

The picturesque town of Oxford, Maryland will host 2017 Plein Air Easton artists throughout the day on Sunday, 16 July. This will be a great day in our watermen’s town, with artists painting at various historic and scenic places in Oxford. To mark this occasion, a full day of events has been planned for our locals and visitors alike. We hope your plans for the weekend include a stop in Oxford to watch this year’s Plein Air Easton artists paint one-of-a-kind scenes from the town and waterways.

The Oxford Business Association is sponsoring this event, with support from the local businesses. It will be a ‘family–friendly’ day, with music and activities for everyone. You can bring your pooch along, too; we even have a dog park for him. Don’t forget a blanket or lawn chair to relax in the park, or to take in the live music, which will be offered in the afternoon at the Oxford Community Center.

For early risers, the Oxford Market will offer ‘free coffee with purchase of a muffin’ to start the day. A short stop away you’ll find the Oxford Museum open from 11 am to 4 pm. Outdoor activities during the day include watercraft rentals at the Strand from Dockside Boat Rentals, 1 – 5 pm. No visit to Oxford is complete without a ferry ride. Be sure to hop aboard ($5.00 per pedestrian) and traverse the Tred Avon River to enjoy the scenery. The ferry is an iconic landmark not only in Maryland, but also on the entire Eastern seaboard. A walking tour of Oxford will leave from the Ferry Dock at 10 a.m. Join Oxford resident Leo Nollmeyer for the history of our town.

Thirsty? Stop by the Treasure Chest from 10 am to 4 pm; free lemonade will be available. You are sure to find a variety of unique gifts and artwork inside, as well. Yacht and Home, newly opened across from the Oxford Market, will be offering iced tea and Plein Air Sugar Cookies to their visitors.

Oxford is also home to Mystery Loves Company Booksellers – a truly special bookstore located conveniently next to the Oxford Town Park. To mark the occasion of the Second Annual Paint Oxford Day, author Stephanie Verni will be on-site (1-3 pm) and signing copies of “Inn Significant,” appropriately set on the Eastern Shore, of course.

Be sure to take a stroll down Tilghman Street to the Scottish Highland Ice Creamery, which will be open from noon until 8:30 pm. They will feature a special “Plein Air Sorbet” as well as several other original and tempting flavors of the day.

While you watch the artists at work around town, you’ll no doubt notice a variety of painted picket fences prominently on display. Be sure to pick up a Picket Fence Map at local business locations, and stroll through town to view another form of original artwork. There are 9 new picket fences this year, as well as several others from years past.

Towards day’s end, head to the Oxford Community Center to see the artists’ completed, framed accomplishments. Paintings may be on display as early as noon for viewing and purchase, but the full Artist Exhibition (accompanied by available nibbles and beverages) will be from 5:00 to 6:30 pm. Capping off activities at that venue, the President of the Oxford Business Association will announce and present the coveted Artists’ Choice award.

By then, you’ll be just in time to enjoy dinner at one of our many fine restaurants before leaving town. Where will you be on 16 July? Why not ‘Come see why we love it here?’

For more information, go to

“Long Walk Home” Update by Robert Messick

Editor’s note: Robert Messick has elected to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail this year to raise awareness and funds for benefit Talbot Interfaith Shelter in Easton. This is his first report from the trail.

I started my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (AT) on April 15th at Springer Mountain, Georgia, and have now been gone for a month. I’ve hiked close to 300 miles and crossed from Georgia into North Carolina and criss-crossed Tennessee and North Carolina throughout the Great Smoky Mountains before leap-frogging from Hot Springs, NC, to Damascus, VA, to meet my partner Lynda and my two children for a brief visit.

I hiked most of those miles with a group of hikers I met while waiting for the shuttle ride from the Atlanta MARTA North Spring Station to Hiker Hostel, Dahlonega, GA. It was a fun, diverse group, representing Germany, Maryland, Kansas, and Washington State; yet we all shared a common love for hiking and the outdoors.

Adam, a 10-year veteran of the Bureau of Land Management “Hot Shot” forest fire fighting crew stationed in South Dakota, Alaska, and Nevada, was accustomed to carrying a 62 pound backpack with all his forest fire fighting gear and transporting a 90 pound water pump with the help of a crew member. I was shocked to later learn from our co-hiker Rebekah that Adam unexpectedly left the trail after hiking for three weeks and flew back home to Kansas because, as he said, “hiking the AT was too much like work.” By that point, the group had disbanded, with the remaining hikers going at their separate pace.

Jörg, one of the nicest persons you could hope to meet, was a German hiking machine and ultimately left me in the dust with his fast pace. I struggled to catch up with him, but only did so after accepting a 6-mile ride from Garenflo Gap to Hot Springs, NC, to warm up my bones from the snow and freezing rain and to ease the pain in my knees.

The first 273 miles were accomplished in 22 days, which included three “zeros” where I simply rested (one at Fontana Dam and two at Gatlinburg). The relatively fast early pace and a wrenched knee from a fall on the very steep, muddy and slippery approach to Fontana Dam, led to my recurring knee problems. I am now forced to go at a slower pace.

Notwithstanding my knee problems, my greatest surprise and pleasure on the AT has been in discovering how friendly, good-natured, and helpful hikers and people in hiker towns are. I’m also amazed at how diverse the AT hiker community is. I’ve met people from all over the United States, plus Canada, Germany, Belgium, England, Crimea, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, to name a few. And it’s very interesting to learn about all the adventures and fabulous places these hikers have experienced.

In my next installment, I will discuss a divergence between some of my goals, proclaimed in my introductory article, and my actual experiences on the AT.

Allegra Publishing Kicks Off in St. Michaels

Would you like to go beyond the dusty family album? Allegria Publishing, a new company on the Eastern Shore, can help. Its motto is, “We bring the past to life.” With an array of talents, its founders have experience in writing, editing, research, and videography. They have produced biographies, folios, and personal videos, using family archives. Would you like to self-publish the book you have always dreamed of writing, or produce a Ken Burns type short video of your family history? Allegra Publishing can help.

Carl Widell, who studied history at Princeton, and reality in Vietnam, heads up the firm. He has self-published two books and is putting the final touches on a biography of a prominent attorney on the shore. Due to his military background, Carl understands how to research old military service records. He is assisted by Pamela Heyne Widell who has published three books, including her latest on Julia Child and kitchen design. She also is an experienced videographer.

In researching their own family archive, the Widells produced a short video about Carl’s grandfather, E.D. Johnston, who served with Canadian forces in WWI.

Johnston’s war diary describes experiencing the first mustard gas attack on April 22, 1915. His photo album contains pictures from the trenches, as well as happier occasions. One picture depicts two laughing WWI officers holding a mirror, in which the photographer, Carl’s grandfather, was reflected. Could this be the first selfie?

Carl’s siblings were surprised and delighted with the video, and sent it on to other friends and relations. According to Carl, “Our families are so spread around now, that our oral histories are lost. With so many images flooding the internet, it is particularly meaningful to celebrate original images from our own archives.”

Pamela Heyne Widell, also known as Pamela Heyne, is an architect and continues to practice. However, she likes the “sleuthing” aspect of writing. Years ago she wrote a book on the architectural mirror. In the rare book room at the Library of Congress, she read an old French 17th century account from a visitor to the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. “He was dazzled, and I was fascinated to relive his emotion, hundreds of years later,” Pam says.

Contact information: 23901 Mount Misery Road, Saint Michaels, Md. 21663 410-714-9555

Senior Nation: Growing Old and Loving It by Dodie Theune

Editor’s Note. Dodie Theune is a resident of Oxford, adjunct faculty member of Temple University, and CEO of Coaching Affiliates. She was the keynote speaker at last week’s Senior Summit for the  Mid-Shore region. We have reprinted her address in its entirety.

Today I hope to encourage you to reimagine how growing old could be different than what we have come to expect. To do that, we need to let go of the old paradigms for aging and create a new vision for our future. No matter where we have been or what we have done or left undone…we can still reimagine our life in what I call “Our Third Act.”

You are never too old to become the person you were meant to be. And that’s what your Third act could be about…becoming the person you were meant to be.

We hear more and more about the “The Graying of America.” The median age of Americans is going up and the population is getting older. We are now the fastest growing segment and that gives us clout in many areas, especially in the voting box. And The Eastern Shore is a perfect example of this phenomenon. In fact, by 2020, we expect that more than 40% of the population of Talbot County will be over age 65!

Today we will take a look at what we can accomplish with this new-found power.

I remember Turning 65. There were a whole lot more candles on the cake. More small lines showed up around my eyes. I remember looking down at my hands and saying, “These are not my hands…These are my mother’s hands.”

I am more than a little stiff now getting up in the morning. I sometimes forget the names of people I know quite well. And I hardly ever remember the titles of books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen. And there are times when I walk into a room and wonder what I was looking for? These are all reminders that I am “gettin’ on in years.”

Turning Sixty Five is a big milestone for us. We send each other funny cards and tell jokes. We celebrate with cake and coffee at work. We have special parties. And we get a kick out of wearing black armbands at 65th birthday parties.

But the truth is that underneath all that playfulness, there is a clear aversion to getting older. And that is not good because when we resist the idea of aging, we are also saying NO to what is possible…saying NO to all that is new and wonderful about this truly unique and special time of life, Our Third Act.

We have, most of us, grown up with what I call the old paradigm of aging, You know what I mean: “Old Age Ain’t No Place for Sissies”, “Getting old is a bitch.” These deep-rooted bromides are what I call: Limiting Beliefs about Aging.

Beliefs are important because they determine our attitudes about everything. And our attitudes are what drives our behavior.

Think about that for a minute.

Limiting beliefs will influence us to have negative and self-defeating attitudes about our future. And since attitudes drive our behavior, we are then more likely to give in to aging, to give up, and to submit to the old expectations about getting old. If that becomes our attitude, we will be guaranteeing that ours will be a future with little if any possibilities.

I’d like to tell you a little bit about my own “growing older” story. I was 70 and teaching at Temple University in Philadelphia when I realized that I needed hearing aids. Mind you, I already had reading glasses. So off I went for the inevitable hearing test. I had to laugh as I remembered my mother saying…first the eyes…then the ears. I am now adding…then the feet!

To tell the truth I hated wearing those hearing aids. The little buds that went inside my ear tickled and I was constantly fussing to see if they were in place. And then one day, I turned on the ignition in my car and my hearing aids buzzed. I said out loud “This is getting ridiculous!”

I can laugh at it now but back then I was really annoyed. It was right around then that we had one of our family dinners. In fact, I think it was Mother’s day. I admit I was complaining more than just a little about those darn hearing aids when one of my daughters came over and put her arm around me and jokingly said, “It’s ok Mom. You’re just getting ‘OLDE’. I was speechless for a moment as I looked at her with amazement and then I said “I’M NOT OLDE… Grandpa…He’s OLDE!!”

So just what is OLDE? Johnny Carson said “Old is 10 years older than you are now.” We like that definition of course because according to Johnnie, we never ever actually get olde, we just age a little more.

My daughter meant well and she probably didn’t realize that what she was actually doing was expressing the old paradigm for aging. You know the one.

It’s often depicted as an Arch. You’re young…you’re middle aged and supposedly at your prime and after that, it is all downhill. We really must change that depiction because it fosters negative thoughts and limiting beliefs.

I prefer to show the life cycle as a straight line to demonstrate a new paradigm for aging: a new vision for “growing old and loving it. ”First there is your younger self…followed by your middle aged and older self … and then you shift into what I am now calling Your Third Act.

We can and should look forward to our Third Act with a curiosity for what could be possible. And anything is possible when you give yourself the opportunity to use your Third Act as a springboard to becoming the person you were meant to be.

When I was 65, It never occurred to me that I would be here with all of you talking about how much I love being 77. I am in the throes of My Third Act and I have not peaked yet! In fact, last winter I spent 30 plus days downhill skiing and I am skiing better than ever. I am truly blessed.

As we age, it is critical that we be authentic. We should tell the truth about ourselves and have some fun doing it. Life is so much easier when we learn to be authentic. Aging actually gives us permission to be who we really are. How refreshing is that?

We can spend time with the people we like especially the ones who make us laugh. And we should definitely find things to laugh about. We can always find something to worry about.

While I was preparing for this morning, I asked my husband if he could give me an example of a time when we laughed at ourselves. Guess what he said? Every day. We find things to laugh about ourselves and each other ….every single day.

I recently saw a post on facebook of a white haired woman dancing the high step and wearing the most outlandish hat and an equally outlandish red and white polka dot dress with lots of ruffles. The caption read: “It’s better to have a sense of humor than no sense at all”

It is extremely important as we enter our Third Act, to let go of the past. Forgive and forget. Life is too short and we just do not have the time to harbor a grudge. In fact, it is exhausting. I saw a poster recently that said: “The best revenge is to be happy.”

And absolutely…we should have no regrets. What’s the point after all? What’s gone is gone. What’s lost is lost. The past is the past.

Our friends have a really wonderful tradition for letting go of the past. All year long, they write down their regrets and then on New Year’s Eve, they make paper boats out of those lists of regrets and gather with other families at a small lake nearby. They line up the boats at the shoreline and light each one with a match and float the burning boats out into the darkness. And then they are free to celebrate a New Year. They have learned to be in the present by torching the past.

It is also important that while we are learning to be authentic, and letting go of the past, we must also learn to give ourselves permission to reach out and ask for help. Remember, ‘no one ever said that growing older would be easy.’ In fact, it takes a great deal of courage! Much too often, our genes disappoint us as we age and for some of us, the Third Act may become an overwhelming challenge.

We recognize that many of our Talbot County seniors are in need of support and encouragement, especially when they are suffering from pain, or financial distress or grieving for a lost loved one. Facing an uncertain future requires enormous courage.

That is precisely why we are here today at the Second Annual Senior Summit. Talbot Community Connections and the Talbot County Department of Social Services are hoping that by sharing information about the right tools and the assistance that is available, our seniors can approach their Third Act with more confidence and ease. Today is all about learning that Aging in Talbot County need not be scary. We can indeed, grow old and love it.

I launched my Third Act by retiring to St Michaels. I told my friends that I would be taking a year to settle in and that I would be nesting, testing and resting. Anyone who has downsized will understand what having ‘layered furniture’ means. I spent endless days unpacking and running to the thrift shops and rummage sales.

Testing was the most fun. I looked around town for ways that I could match my experience and skills with a need in the community. To fill a gap, if you will. I knew it would certainly be easy to be busy. There are endless possibilities for volunteering. But I was, after all, in my Third Act and I was looking for a way to experience what I saw as a profound new vision for myself…“to grow old and love it.”

That’s when I discovered the Academy of Life Long Learning. When I was a young mother I saw a poster at the library that read: “Live today as if it were your last and seek after knowledge as if you will live forever.”

I absolutely believe that anyone who stops learning will get old while someone who keeps learning will stay young. I have become a great proponent of lifelong learning. Malcolm Boyd, an Episcopal priest and Poet-in-Residence at the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles wrote that “Aging… requires learning. God knows it requires wisdom. It can be an enormous blessing because it serves to sum up a life, lend it character, underscore its motivation. Finally, it prepares the way for leave-taking.”

I AM a life long learner. I finished my undergraduate degree when my children were grown and then went on to earn my Masters in Adult Education. I received my PhD just 7 years ago and it took me more than 5 years to earn that degree.

So, when I discovered the Academy of Life Long Learning. I was really excited . I took several fascinating courses and then came up with the Idea of creating a course about my favorite subject: growing old and loving it. Facilitating that course was an extremely fulfilling experience. Actually it was a joy. I was in my Third Act and doing something I truly loved. And here I am today.

In one of the workshops at the Senior Summit, we will hear a discussion about reimagining your life. It is possible, you know…to reimagine your life …no matter what your current circumstances may be. A technique for reimagining your life is to ask yourself : What will be my life story; What legacy do I want to leave?

When you were younger and busy raising families and building careers, you may have wanted to do more but just didn’t have the time. Now that you have the time, what dream can you follow? And for you younger folks, now is your chance to do what you can with what you’ve got in the direction of your dream and begin to write that story.

The motto for Talbot Community Connections is “Filling the Gap.” What gap can you fill? What can you do to make a difference? You might think about what makes you mad or sad about what’s going on in the world? Is there an organization or group you can support that’s doing work you think is important. Is there one small thing that you can do to make a difference.

My neighbor is passionate about the environment. When she walks through our town, she always stops to pick up cans, and plastic bottles and puts them in the recycle bin. She then started cleaning up the recycle areas in town. In fact she would even bring back trash that wasn’t recyclable and put it in her own trash bin. She was living her passion about the environment. Eventually, she was successful in getting curbside recycle service in St Michaels. Wherever she goes, she makes a difference. Ann Hymes is living proof that small things, done consistently, in strategic places can reap huge results.

Remember: you are never too old to become the person you were meant to be, and it’s never too late to envision yourself acting out your passion in your third act.

Rally for Recovery Draws Strong Showing

Recovery for Shore’s Rally for Recovery, held Saturday June 3 in downtown Easton, drew a diverse crowd of those in recovery and their family and friends along with many treatment providers and representatives of other recovery support organizations. The event began at 3:30 p.m. with a march from Christ Church Easton on South Street, up Washington Street to the Talbot County Courthouse. The block between Dover and Goldsborough was closed to traffic from 4-4:30 p.m. so that the rally, which included cheers, speakers and prize presentations for the best rally sign, could take place. The event continued with the group’s return to Christ Church for the Alive at Five service followed by fellowship and refreshments on the lawn.

Bonnie Scott, founder of Rising Above Disease, addressing the Rally crowd. To her left is Keith Richards, Rally for Recovery emcee.

According to Sharon Dundon, program specialist for Shore Behavioral Health’s Addictions Program and ad hoc coordinator for Recovery for Shore, crowd estimates varied from 150 to 180. “The exact number was hard to gauge as many people floated in and out over the course of the event, but there was no doubt about the enthusiasm of those who were there,” says Dundon.

Rally participants brought creative, colorful homemade signs with positive messages about recovery.

The recovery cheers at the Courthouse — along the lines of “We cheer, we lead, we know there’s a need!” and “Say it loud, say it clear – Recovery helps, recovery’s here!” — brought onlookers out of shops and restaurants. Remarks offered by emcee Keith Richardson, of Warwick Manor, and the event’s keynote speaker, Bonnie Scott, founder of the Rising Against Disease recovery house for women in Talbot County, drew enthusiastic applause and shout-outs from rally participants.

“Bonnie’s talk, including her description of losing a son to heroin overdose, was equal parts moving, informative and inspiring,” Dundon said. “During the walk back to Christ Church, rally goers were talking about how heartfelt it was and how grateful they were for the information she offered about finding help for those who still suffer and the hope she offered by sharing her experiences as an advocate.”

The Alive at Five Service featured the inspirational music of the Alive at Five band and guest speaker Cindy Keefe, who talked about her 20-year journey in recovery and the support she has received from the local recovery community. Fellowship on the lawn, including tables offering information about recovery resources and a wide menu of donated refreshments — from pizza to crab dip and dessert and Rise Up Coffee — lasted until 7:30 p.m.

“We had great support from the Town of Easton, the Easton police and dozens of volunteers who brought food and recovery resource information and also helped with set up and clean up,” Dundon says. “All of us in Recovery for Shore are very grateful for the outpouring of support and enthusiasm, and for Christ Church’s generosity in hosting the celebration after the Rally. Our hope is that those willing to ‘recover out loud’ will do so as it can help decrease the stigma associated with addiction, inspire others to seek help earlier and brings awareness to the vast recovery happening in our community.”

Learning from Rouse’s Talbottown by Doug Davies

Planning isn’t like riding a bike; apparently.

I recently read about a joke about two fish having a conversation. The first fish say the other fish: “Hey, how’s the water?” To which the second fish replies: “What the hell is water?” This joke will hopefully resonate with you after this article, but the basic point here is that most of our environment — the design, construction, rules, and physical objects that define our lives — is, from our perspective, so encompassing, as to be rendered invisible.

For most residents, or Americans for the sake of this argument, the town’s urban fabric is our water. The styles, types, densities, and scales of the buildings and infrastructure that surround us every day go by unnoticed and uncontemplated. It is obvious to us all that where you live matters, however the ways in which specific communities or areas of a town can create opportunity differ significantly. What becomes even more disparate is our ability to recreate successful communities, even right next to each other.

Indulge me for the next 15 minutes, and I will show you just how the water is. There is so much more to say on each of these topics, but let’s go on the 5-cent tour. Let’s talk about Easton.

History in Brief

Since the earliest conception of Easton, the downtown, more specifically the courthouse, had always been the center of commerce, life, and libation. It should be no surprise that shortly after the courthouse was constructed, so too was a Tavern for employees. For many years, up until WWII, things continued in much the same fashion, the town grew incrementally to afford its greater population the necessary services and housing it needed. However, sometime in the 1950s, development began to become rampant along the highways going through town. This move was unprecedented from the rest of Easton’s near 250-year history. What was happening?

The automobile, FHA lending, and babies. The combination of troops coming home, a housing shortage, and kids compounded and pushed development to heights not seen in many small communities ever before. Even famed developer Jim Rouse, an Easton native, was trying to deter such behavior when in 1954 he opened the Talbottown Shopping Center. In the book “Wye Island: Insiders, Outsiders, and Change in a Chesapeake Community,” Rouse is quoted as saying “There is no place where a shopping center is worse, than on the outskirts of a town. Walking down the streets, meeting people — that’s what a small town is all about. When you lose that, you lose everything.”[1] Throughout the rest of Rouse’s career, he seemed unable to decipher the difference of downtown shopping and outlying neighborhood shopping, though his first effort in Easton was a noble one.[2]

Ultimately what continued was a development pattern not unlike Talbottown, but larger, and farther away from downtown at each turn, sacrificing density and proximity for parking and convince. Rather than consolidating, these strip centers (See: Wal-Mart Shoppes at Easton, Easton Plaza Shopping Center, Waterside Village, The Lowes — Khols Strip, and even the Acme — Movie Theatre Strip) went decidedly against everything the last 250 years of Easton had been working towards. These strip centers are devoid what is called “placemaking.” Placemaking is the secret sauce, or the 11th KFC spice, or the origin of “genius-loci” of towns. Placemaking was subtracted for the benefit of parking, convenience, and speed. This after all was the era of the car.


1. This is Place. This is the face of Easton we all celebrate and share with visitors.
2. Can you imagine this as a postcard you would send to a friend? is this even the Easton Wal-Mart? Maybe?

Much was lost during this building boom for communities, but most importantly we lost places worth caring about. No longer were, as Rouse put it, residents “Walking down the streets, meeting people,” the new Easton was about driving and chasing the American dream. Suburban development was king. Communities like Beechwood, Corbin, Easton Village, Easton Club, Cookes Hope, and others spread into the countryside eating farms for single-use, single-family development. As these developments grew, so too did their strip mall counterparts. What we were left with was a development pattern nothing like Easton had ever seen. Single-use residential is residential and single-use commercial is commercial, never the twain shall meet.

3. Placemaking personified. It is easy to imagine caring about this place. This place is an engine of its own success.
4. Entropy personified. Much like the heat death of the universe, this place will degrade until nothing remains. Is this place rich enough socially that we should care about it? The unequivocal answer is no.

The top photo here is sexy, there is atmosphere, mood, character. It is dynamic, it’s active, exciting, and full of life. This did not happen by chance. This place was made. It was made through the act of placemaking which, now that you can see what it is, you can begin to understand how to look for it. Placemaking is a process, it’s never complete, never finished, continually evolving to stay relevant. It listens deeply to its community and morphs to accommodate the needs and will of the people.

If it’s not evident in these photos alone, the Project for Public Spaces list four major criteria for placemaking: sociability, uses and activity, access and linkages, and comfort and image. There are literally hundreds of things that fill out these categories from sanitation to volunteerism, the fact is we don’t design spaces like this anymore, as evidenced by this asphalt wasteland of the Supercenter, in the name of economic development. But is this economical?

Economic Development

The following two images depict the same amount of space, roughly 110 acres. Image 5 shows downtown Easton, with its mix of residential, office, commercial, civic space, medical offices, infrastructure, and open space. Image 6 shows what appears to be largely parking with stores sprinkled almost evenly apart from each other. Which of the two would you think generates a greater tax revenue for the town?

5. Downtown Easton.
6. Strip Center Easton

At first glance it might seem as though Target, Lowe’s, and Acme Shopping Centers would be tax revenue powerhouses — but when looked at as Value per Acre (Tax Revenue divided by Lot Acres) the story becomes rather abysmal for these large shopping centers. The graphic below indicates the Value per Acre (VpA) of much of Downtown Easton. When measuring VpA, places downtown like the Washington Street Pub outperform Target 100 to 1. If downtown were designed today — and were to produce the same tax revenue it would encompass over a thousand acres of development — most of which would be parking lots and road infrastructure.

7. Value per Acre Downtown Easton. Blue indicates a larger value in tax revenue.

It turns out those huge empty parking lots would be better utilized as retail. What is evidenced here is what is commonly called the “park-once strategy” of development. The downtown boasts over 1,000 parking spaces, each capable of reaching tens if not hundreds of businesses and services. Target however is a largely a single-use parking strategy focused. By dividing up the parcels as such, each business requires a parking space and trip, nobody is walking back from BJ’s to the Target parking lot with the metric ton of dog food available for purchase there, not to mention the near half mile walk (seriously, I measured it). This is designed to discourage visiting multiple stores, rather purchasing everything at one store. So much for competition.

The chart below shows just how large this gap is. Target or Wal-Mart generate $7.00/acre versus somewhere like the Washington Street Pub that can generate near $105/acre. And before you ask, yes, the Pub and much of Washington Street is 3–4 stories. What does this mean? Mixed use and density equals revenue.

Again, this is just an overview, but some other topics that you should be curious about here are employment density, salaries, and public infrastructure costs. It should be evident however, that the sheer lack of density does not bode well for these places.

8. Value Per Acre from

Alternate Reality

What if we course corrected? This idea is one that has occupied much of my time. How do we turn strip centers into places worth caring about? Though Waterside Village does a great job of trying to mimic the attributes of community with fake brick sidewalks, a clock tower, and buildings that abut the street, they fall short of creating place. Heck they even have a mix of uses (somewhat) with some office functions above the two buildings along Route 33. But they are decidedly lacking in the vibrancy of downtown Easton. There is no confusing the two.

9. Where more buildings, parks, residences, and businesses should be, here we get parking, and a lot of it.

This is because our definition of space is being manipulated. Much like our front lawns, these vestiges of “public space” are so far removed from their function that they are mere ornament. We have taken the physical attributes that we associate with great places and have created a facsimile, losing all understanding of the delicate recipe that make them. Placemaking is like baking, and Waterside Village is an ingredients list without measurements. Instead of 12 oz. of flower and a tablespoon of salt, we got 12 oz. of parking and a tablespoon of public space.

For some imagination assistance, let’s look at a rough conceptual reimagining of how we could start to reclaim some of these spaces throughout town. This is in no way a recommendation of specific locations for structures, but paints a picture of how we can infuse placemaking into underutilized strip centers. There’s a plethora of further information on this topic of Retrofitting Suburbia that should be referenced for further study.

10. Red — New Structure, Blue — Existing Structure, Gray — Parking Structure, Green — Park / Median

A retrofitted Marlboro Avenue instantly becomes a street worth walking down, ergo, a street worth putting a business on. Introduction of parking, street trees, wide sidewalks and reduced traffic speeds convert Marlboro from a road (defined as an improved pathway between two places) to a street (defined as a paved public path in a community — not just for cars). A median could help reduce traffic speeds while creating better accessibility and crossing for pedestrians. Fully developed, this corridor would act as a substantially better representative street for first time visitors of Easton. Parks interspersed throughout this area create places to eat lunch, meet friends, or just enjoy something besides parking. Housing introduced provides activity in a longer span than just 9–5.

A greater connected grid of streets disperses traffic over a greater footprint rather than compressing it to wide roads that are impassable and dangerous. Parking structures are not needed, and should only be included if there is a parking need. With over 2,600 spaces in the combined developments, there should be little fear that a loss of a little bit of parking would even be noticed. Have you ever seen them full? If your answer is Four of July — do you keep air mattresses inflated with linens 24/7 for when your friends visit? I know in my near 20 years of being in Easton, I have never once worried about parking. More to the point — I’d trade 5 minutes of searching for parking for more places like downtown any day.

11. Existing Marlboro Avenue.
12. Proposed Marlboro Avenue. Imagine if these were 3–4 stories like downtown Easton. ( I am being modest here, there is no reason these couldn’t be 3 or more stories.)
13. For some perspective, this is Washington Street around Goldsborough Street.

Advice from a Friend

As a good friend once told me, “Value and opportunity are things you inherit by accident from the distant past. They are not things we are empowered to create in the living present. To suggest otherwise is pure madness.” Obviously, this is not without its obvious hyperbole. We are masters of our own universe, and this shouldn’t end at our personal lives. For the past 60 years, Easton has relied on its distant past for its value and opportunity. Its high time we create some of our own; in our own image.

Doug Davies is a urban planner, designer, and landscape architect and native of Easton, Maryland.

[1] Boyd Gibbons and Professor Boyd Gibbons, Wye Island: Insiders, Outsiders, and Change in a Chesapeake Community (Washington, DC: Resources for the Future Press (RFF Press), 2007). 15.

[2] Paul Marx, Jim Rouse: Capitalist/idealist (United States: University Press of America, 2007). 79.

Op-Ed: Open Letter to Easton Town Council: Role of Retail by Dan Watson

Retailing in America today is in more disarray and turmoil than at any time in my 72 years, with extraordinary churn and instability. I spent 40 years in commercial real estate and finance, including a 15-year stint as a Director of Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Investment Trust that owned and operated the Giant shopping center on Elliott Road. With this perspective, I am very worried about this contradiction: the absolute permanence of land use decisions (especially new development on the edges), versus the completely transitory nature of retail business today.

It used to be that a big name, in retailing especially, meant something steady and reliable. No more. Never have retailers and retailing formats come and gone so quickly. (See, for example, 6 links below.)

Towns like Easton are presented with the retailing idea du jour, sure to become the next big thing. Yours is a heavy responsibility: to keep the fabric of our community in tact in a generational sense, and not just to follow the pied piper of development trends, which were never so capricious as they are today in the retail sector.

A newly arrived retailer with a name and an idea is hardly bedrock. A “deal” with a 10 or 20 year lease sounds like something, but its an eye-blink compared to the permanent impact the resulting land use decision will have on the community, from the details of traffic patterns to the broadest sense of character of Easton and Talbot County. And sudden closures driven by market-side corporate-level tumult rather than specific lease term are all too common. This affects not just small stores like Radio Shack and Chico’s; recent headlines regarding store closings also involve Kohl’s, Target, Staples, and others—Penny’s not to be overlooked.

Adaptive re-use and redevelopment of sites already built upon will be the next strategic challenge for the Town of Easton–that’s where the Council should turn its attention, before, not after, a veritable crisis.

The revolutionary tumult in today’s retail world (mostly driven by technology) means the benefits of any new scheme may be especially transitory, while the community impact is as permanent as ever. I urge that you not further change the Waterside Village PUD, which reflects community-driven land use principles, just to accommodate a particular retailer as it experiments with yet another retail idea of the moment.


Shore Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” Opens June 2 at Adkins Arboretum

Shore Shakespeare’s production of  Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens this weekend at Adkins Arboretum.  Written in 1596, this magical play has been in production constantly ever since!

Lovers and faeries, magic and mayhem, pageantry and poetry, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has it all!  Directed by Christian Rogers and produced by Shelagh Grasso, the production highlights the talents of Patrick Fee, Avra Sullivan, Brian McGunigle, and Colleen Minahan, with Christine Kinlock, Heather Oland, Robbie Spray, Troy Strootman, Lindsey Hammer, and Greg Minahan.  They are joined by Josh Hanson, John Terebey, Jane Terebey, and Sarah Gorman.

Choreography and original music are by Greg Minahan, with Magic direction by Ian Flinn.  Costumes are designed by Barbi Bedell.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens on June 2nd with three special performances at Adkins Arboretum in Ridgely, MD.  Tickets for these performances are $15 and may be purchased directly from the Arboretum’s website.  Proceeds benefit the Arboretum and Shore Shakespeare Company.

Our Free Tour of performances opens with performances on June 9th and 10th at 6:00 pm at the Oxford Community Center in Oxford, and Idlewild Park in Easton on June 11th at 3:00 pm.  Then it’s on to Cambridge, with a performance at Long Wharf Park on June 16th at 6:00 pm, and two performances on the Cray House lawn in Stevensville, on June 17th at 6:00 pm and June 18th at 3:00 pm.  The tour concludes with two performances at Wilmer Park in Chestertown, on Friday, June 23rd at 6:00 pm and Sunday, June 25th at 3:00 pm.  Complete information and directions to all venues are available at Shore Shakespear’s website.

All tour performances are free and open to the public.  Donations in support of Shore Shakespeare are certainly welcome!  A donation of $15 per person is suggested but never required.  As an affiliate of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, all donations are fully tax-deductible.

Op Ed: Funding the Bay by Tom Zolper

Tax dollars at work. It’s a sign you occasionally see at road construction projects. But it also could be affixed to any number of valuable government services we take for granted as we sail, motor, fish, or swim in the Chesapeake Bay.

Keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean and safe is important to everyone, from boaters to businesses.

Say you are a recreational boater and you spy dark clouds building on the horizon. You need real-time information on weather and water conditions. You pick up your smart phone or device and presto, the information is provided through the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System.

You are a livestock farmer who wants to raise animals the way your grandfather did – on pasture. You’ve seen the economic data; you know you can increase your profit margin making the switch. But it’s expensive. So, you pick up the phone and secure some financial help from the Regional Conservation Partnership.

These are just two examples of countless services provided by federal programs. The buoys are funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The farmer program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA).

By now most people have heard that President Trump wants to eliminate all funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, one of the biggest federal efforts that help the Bay. But there are many other federal programs that benefit the Chesapeake, NOAA and DOA programs being two. Some seem relatively safe from the budget ax; some seem in danger. Congress will decide the fate of all these programs this summer.

Federal tax dollars help fund oyster restoration, among hundreds of other Bay-saving projects.Here, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation puts spat-on-shell (young oysters attached to old shells) into the Little Choptank River. The feds have contributed millions to local oyster restoration.

The Chesapeake Bay is an ecosystem, a complex network of living creatures. Three hundred years ago the Chesapeake didn’t need help from the federal government to sustain itself. But there weren’t 17 million people living within its drainage area. Human beings are hard on nature.

Today, federal tax dollars from those 17 million residents are part of the complex econ-system (my word) that keeps the Bay alive. One dollar contributed from the feds prompts local governments, businesses, and groups to contribute up to $4 more to the same Bay-saving project. That’s how you stretch tax dollars, create jobs, and boost the local economy. Your federal tax dollars are invested. They pay off.

For instance, the feds gave $114,850 to restore 20 acres of oyster reefs in the Tred Avon River. That investment prompted the Oyster Recovery Partnership to raise $300,000 for the same project.

Another example: the feds invested $54,320 for the restoration of 27 acres of wetlands on the Chester River. The money leveraged a contribution from Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage of $53,500.

Take the federal dollars away, and re-direct them say, to the military budget, and the Bay will decline. Make no mistake about it. It’s doubtful that individual states, counties or municipalities within the Bay region would raise their taxes or shortchange other programs to make up for funding lost through federal budget cuts.

Here are just a few more of the services to the Bay provided through one agency, NOAA:

Oyster Restoration: From larvae produced at the Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge to the giant man-made reef networks in the Choptank River tributaries, NOAA provides substantial funding for the herculean task of bringing back the Chesapeake oyster population.
• Oyster Aquaculture: Just like regular farmers get help from the federal government, oyster farmers in the Chesapeake get assistance from NOAA, especially in the form of research of what works best.
Environmental Education: If we are to save the Bay, we absolutely must educate the next generation to carry on the work. Students across Maryland are monitoring and caring for streams near their schools, growing baby oysters, and studying their watersheds, among other actions. President Trump wants to eliminate a key environmental education program funded by NOAA: Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET). What might be lost? One example of many: the Choptank Choices program by the Sultana Education Foundation allows 5th-grade students in Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot counties to study the Choptank both in the classroom and aboard the 1768 schooner Sultana.
Bottom Sonar Scans: these provide the data for navigational maps used by recreational and commercial boaters. The science also locates hard bottom where oyster reefs can be created.
• Oyster Reef Monitoring: Every year in Maryland NOAA provides about $130,000 so divers can carefully monitor whether man-made reef systems are working. These monitoring programs tell us if oysters are surviving, reproducing and more. Without these NOAA-funded dive, we’d be pouring tax dollars into the water with no way of determining results.

Eastern Shore Congressman Rep. Andy Harris sits on the House Appropriations Committee and will have an important voice in the future of these and other Bay-related programs.

Tom Zolper is the assistant media director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation