From a writer’s perspective, what makes the Eastern Shore and Delmarva unique is that it’s out of the way. A proposed new Chesapeake Bay crossing could truly impact our sense of place. Here is the Baltimore Sun op-ed I wrote about that … in print on Sunday, Feb. 11.
Third Chesapeake Bay bridge would have lasting impact
To get a glimpse of how the Eastern Shore used to be before the Chesapeake Bay bridge, all you had to do was ask George Prettyman and Sterling Hersch. Both of these old timers grew up in the early 1900s in Rock Hall, where Sterling’s family owned the general store and George’s father was the Methodist minister. George, who wrote newspaper columns in the “I remember” style, recalled how back-to-school shopping meant a ferry trip to Baltimore — always an exciting outing for a kid from Rock Hall. Both Sterling and George are gone now, but this era before the bridge lives on in memory and legacy.
When the original two-lane Chesapeake Bay bridge opened in 1952, it meant an end to the Eastern Shore’s isolation, literally paving the way for development. But while the bridge was a boon for Ocean City, enabling tourists to “reach the beach,” it actually brought about the economic decline of places that had a business model built around the ferry.
The towns of Tolchester and Betterton, both near Rock Hall, once hosted hordes of day trippers from Baltimore, with the former offering an amusement park and the latter a selection of places to stay. Even in Cecil County, places like Hollywood Beach and Crystal Beach attracted crowds of beach-goers to the shores of the Chesapeake at a time when the Atlantic beaches were a much more difficult drive. But the bridge changed all that, and certainly there were no more shopping trips to Baltimore on the ferry.
In 1973, a parallel three-lane span was opened to relieve traffic congestion, and now, the state government of Maryland is in the early stages of planning for a third bridge crossing. Those changes that rocked the shore could happen all over again. …
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