Easton’s Walkability, Speed Limits, and Roundabouts with Town Engineer Rick Van Emburgh

It is hard to go through one’s day in Easton, either as a pedestrian or a motorist, and not have moments of curiosity, and, at times, irritation, about how the town makes decisions about infrastructure and traffic improvements. From wondering why downtown intersections can be difficult for walkers or why speed limits are so high or so low on a given street, the average resident builds up a ton of unanswered questions related to these aspects of city planning.

Given the Spy’s ongoing reconnaissance on foot in and around Easton, we were determined to get a few of these questions answered and was delighted that Rick Van Emburgh, the town’s engineer, who is charged with managing such matters , was willing to sit down recently to provide a few.

In our interview, Rick highlights a range of projects including Port Street planning, sidewalk improvements, intersection options. And given all of these interesting topics, we decided to extend our normal timeline to accommodate more than a few of these subjects.

This video is approximately eighteen minutes in length. For more important about the Town of Easton Engineering Department please go here


Profiles in Philanthropy: Catherine Poe and the Talbot County Hunger Coalition

It would seem that after nine years of chairing the board of Chesapeake College, running the Talbot County Democratic Forum, and quite a few other nonprofit roles in the region, Catherine Poe would feel wholly justified in saying she had done her bit for Talbot County.

But quite the opposite has turned out to be the case.

Moved and upset after attending a meeting hosted the Talbot County Network which documented the horrifically high number of children going without food in her community, Catherine didn’t hesitate in answering the call to help lead a new organization to address this urgent issue.

Within weeks after that meeting, Poe once again utilized her leadership skills to become the first chair of the Talbot County Hunger Coalition. Not only tasked with the coordination of effort of the ten nonprofit food pantries in the area, the Coalition, which does not take donations, has also played an active role to creating essential links with the Easton Farmers’ Market and Talbot County’s food stores and restaurants to donate food and volunteers to help children and adults receive adequate and healthy eating.

In addition, Catherine has taken on the additional role of chairing the Talbot Family Network which hosts the highly successful Talbot County Community Resource Expo which not only provides meals for those in need but uses this opportunity to plug these families into other resources that can improve their general health, legal aid, and other assistance programs.

The Spy sat down with Catherine last week at the Bullitt House to discuss this critical work.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about the Talbot County Hunger Coalition please go here


Two Friends Talking: Self-Awareness

Welcome back to the Talbot Spy’s most recent effort in using the podcast model as one of our many tools in telling stories. While we welcome our readers to watch these broadcasts, they have been created with listening in mind, without significant editing, and to be enjoyed as a long-form presentation.

And that is undoubtedly the intention here as the Spy starts a new series entitled “Two Friends Talking.” Knowing of the joy, humor, and a good bit of wisdom that comes when two close friends sit over coffee and chat about a serious subject, the Spy was eager to find some way to share the remarkably educational moments that come with that exchange. Beyond the hard talk of local politics or neighborhood chatter, these conversations can unexpectedly drift from the mundane to the intellectually-demanding task of understanding the meaning of words like faith, compassion, death, kindness or forgiveness.

While many nationally-broadcast programs bring well-known personalities together for such dialogues, the Spy wanted to bring this kind of exchange to the local level; respectfully listening to, and learning from, the heart-to-heart talks of those in Talbot County known in the community as being both wise and candidly self-aware.

Two of those that truly fit that bill are Amy Haines (founder and owner of Out of the Fire) and her friend of many years, artist and educator Sue Stockman. And with the Spy’s eternal gratitude, these fearless two have agreed to be part of this experiment.

Once a month, Amy and Sue will randomly select a word out of a large bowl filled with dozens of words that the two agreed in advance on as worthy of a conversation. All of which was to take place one Sunday every month in Amy’s cozy basement.

Beginning each program with the aromatherapeutic benefit of burning a bit of palo santo, Amy and Sue plop down on the sofa with that one word for thirty minutes for thought-provoking, humorous, and sometimes touching moments of reflection.

This month: Self-Awareness.


A Film Teaser by Kurt Kolaja for Those Wild Horses of Chincoteague

As readers of the Spy know, we have a special affection for the masterful short teaser films that encourage attendance to film festivals as well as other special screenings of independent film.  Sadly, these sometimes work of shear genius are rarely acknowledged enough.

One of the most recent came to the Spy’s attention by local filmmaker Kurt Kulia to drum up viewership for the upcoming broadcast on MTV of his speciatalor documentary The Wild Ponies of Chincoteague for Chesapeake Bay Week on April 22.

For more information please go here.

After the First Decade: Piazza’s Emily Chandler Looks Back and Forward

As the Spy celebrates its own tenth year of operation, it dawned on us that there were quite a number of businesses on the Mid-Shore that started at the same time the Spy began publishing.  Ranging from bakeries to contractors, dozens of small businesses opened their doors amid a significant economic recession, relying on instinct and self-confidence that their services would be sought after, no matter the current business climate.

With that in mind, the Spy has decided to interview many of these brave entrepreneurs over the next year for them to reflect on their experiences.

We start with Emily Chandler, the owner of the now extremely popular Piazza Italian Market, in Easton.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Piazza please go here.


Keeping the Game Alive: Talbot County Club Golf Pros Champion the Sport with Young People

There are two competing theories as to why golf, perhaps America’s most successful recreational sport over the last five decades, is losing players. One is that the expense of the game, with high green fees and very few public courses, is taking a toll on golf’s popularity. The other is the result of a long overdue correction with golf’s general appeal and an oversupply of courses.

In either case, the golf pros in Talbot County are not taking this news lightly.

A case in point are the efforts being made by the Talbot Country Club’s Head Pro Marc Kimminau and his associate, Dan Costenbader, in bringing the joy and life lessons that come with playing golf to young people.

Beyond their own programs at the Club, which include a new inter-club PGA junior league program, Marc and Dan are working with their colleagues at Talbot County’s public Hog Neck Golf Course, to participate in the national First Tie program, as well as the frequent host of the annual AJGA tournament which brings over a hundred young golfers and their families from all over the country to Talbot County.

The Spy checked in with Marc and Dan a few weeks ago at the Club’s pro shop for an overview.

This video is approximately minutes in length. For more information about the Talbot Country Club’s golf programs please go here.

Publisher Notes: The Spy Welcomes Columnist Angela Rieck

Adding to our roster of Spy columnists, we are pleased to welcome Angela Rieck as she begins her weekly column in both the Chestertown Spy and Talbot Spy today.

Dr. Rieck offers our Mid-Shore readers a unique perspective as a native of Caroline County and her professional life the led to her work at the prestigious Bell labs and other high tech companies after receiving her Ph.D. in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland.

Now retired in St. Michaels (and periodically Key West), Angela has reconnected with her Eastern Shore roots as she combines her sense of place, a love of analysis, and an uncommon literary sensibility for a mathematician in her writing. All of which makes her point of view a perfect fit with the Spy’s ongoing quest for thoughtful commentary on our world on the Eastern Shore and beyond.

Angela’s column will be published every Thursday.

Senior Nation: Ask Irma on Leaving Independent Living Too Soon

Senior Nation is committed to offering resources to help us deal with the challenges and opportunities of aging. To that end, we are launching a new monthly video blog called “Ask Irma” hosted by Irma Toce, C.E.O. of the Londonderry on the Tred Avon in Easton, where we will be exploring on all topics related to aging.

This month: Prematurely leaving independent living and the challenges of falling.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For information about Londonderry on the Tred Avon please go here

Avalon Foundation Moving Forward with 7,500 Seat Performing Arts Center

While it has always been in the back of the minds of the Avalon Foundation’s leadership to eventually find a new performance venue for their ever-growing number of concerts and attendees, board members and staff realistically assumed it would take decades before a building with of state-of-the-art amenities could become a reality.

That prediction changed dramatically six weeks ago.

Finally getting around to returning a phone call from a fellow attorney in Washington D.C., Avalon Foundation president, Denise Bode, was expecting to answer a minor legal question on land use in Talbot County, where she and her husband have a second home. What she received instead was the confidential notification that an anonymous client had committed to donate up to $35 million for a new performing arts center in Easton.

Perhaps more disorienting for Bode, as well as for Bob Rauch of Rauch, Inc., who had also been contacted about the proposed project, was the suggested timeline for both the gift and the construction schedule. The project would need to be fast-tracked and open at approximately the same time when the web giant Amazon would be opening their new East Coast offices in Virginia.

Being the professionals they were, both Bode and Rauch quickly discarded any thoughts of who the philanthropist was or why the peculiar timeline. Their job was to make the offer happen.

The following evening, Bode assembled the board’s executive leadership to outline the specifics of the offer. Within 30 minutes, a draft memorandum of understanding was approved, and by 11 pm that night, the project had been assigned to the Rauch team of engineers and architects.

But all that has not stopped the Talbot County rumor mill from its own speculation on the project’s donor and motivation.

Since Amazon announced their intention to move to the Washington, D.C. area, economists have projected a specific “Amazon effect” for the region. With the potential of thousands of affluent professionals flooding into the District, there will be a significant ripple impact for Talbot County as those families seek out vacation homes or weekend retreats.

Experts cite the example of Marin County as a good comparison. Marin, a mostly rural county just north of San Francisco, was invaded by newly-rich Silicon Valley executives seeking reprieve from the congestion of Bay Area. This phenomenon not only made real estate prices go sky high but dramatically increased funding for the arts.

In many take years, perhaps decades, to uncover the source of funding for the new performance complex, but those same experts suggest that the donor’s desire to significantly improving the Avalon’s capacity could well be linked to a savvy strategy to win over these tech millionaires early in the game.

Late last week Rauch made good on its first commitment of their contract by providing the Avalon board draft schematics of the facility and well as rough renderings of its interior, including some spaces already named for well-known VIPs in Talbot County.

This seemed to the Spy to be an excellent time to receive an official download from Denise and Bob on this remarkable turn of events for the Avalon and the community it has faith served for almost one hundred years.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information on the Avalon Foundation or to make a donation to their current capital campaign please go here.

Editor Note: Dear gentle reader, if you have been able to suspend your disbelief to the very end of this article, we must make it clear that this is entirely fake news to celebrate April Fools Day.



At the Academy: Dressed to Kill

It will be a shock to most visitors to the Academy Art Museum current exhibition entitled “Dressed to Kill” which features Roman, Greek, and Hellenistic jewelry, helmets, vessels that are nearly 2000-year old, how remarkably contemporary much of it looks in 2019. With stunning examples of earrings, bracelets, and other fine jewelry, it is hard not to assume that these same objects might feel right at home at the AAM’s annual craft fair rather that centuries-old artifacts.

But, of course, that’s what the Academy’s director Ben Simons and curator Anke Van Wagenberg wanted the Museum’s guests to experience when they asked Guest Curator Sarah Cox to organize the exhibition.

The Spy talked to Ben and Anke a few weeks ago about the exhibition.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum please go here

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