I Wish I Could Believe in a Third Bridge by Judy Gifford


I wish I could believe the rosy scenario put forth by proponents of a third Bay Bridge terminating in Kent County.

I wish they had convinced me with their statistics and growth trends that once the four or six-lane highway connecting the bridge to wherever it is built, Kent County would not become another Middletown, Delaware where big box stores and chain restaurants are popping up faster than you can count.

I wish I could believe that it will not bother me to see the homes and farms of family, friends, and neighbors taken by the state through the use of eminent domain and destroyed in order for supporters to get to Baltimore 45 minutes faster.

I wish I could believe that watching beautiful farmland ripped up, topsoil carted away and carbon released into the atmosphere was a fair price to pay for what they call progress or growth.
I wish I could believe that good jobs for all would magically appear and that the county could control the pressure from developers and land speculators once our land use ordinances have been overridden by the state.

I wish I could believe that the hundreds of millions of dollars allocated for this project could not be better spent on schools and teachers, rural health care, improving existing infrastructure and efforts to clean up the Bay.

But I can’t. I do, however, believe that Kent County is not sentenced to doom and gloom if we prevail and prevent a bridge terminus at Kent County’s shoreline and a massive approach road to Route 301.
In fact, I believe the conversation between supporters and opponents provides an opportunity to focus on what we can do now to improve the circumstances of all of us who live in Kent County without sacrificing our unique characteristics and qualities of life. Without waiting 10 to 15 years for the promises of the yellow brick road.

The way to address our core challenges and opportunities is through the hard work of community development. More encompassing than economic development, community development is not as alluring as a new road but is more effective in making decisions that our grandchildren will be proud of.

In community development, where people are the most important resource, strategies for success are driven by local vision (our county comprehensive plan), are proactive and future-oriented, embrace change, and assume risk, rather than wait for trolling developers.
Rather than bank on the unlikely reality that the proponents’ assumptions are correct, we should look at our assets and capitalize on our competitive advantage.

Kent County is home to a respected college campus, beautiful waterfront, an abundance of natural resources, a historic downtown, prominent cultural and heritage sites, a multitude of recreational activities, hubs of small business activity, high speed internet access, the most progressive farmers in the country and a trove of talented and dedicated citizens who want to make Kent County even better.

It is clear that Kent County is well suited to be a model for rural development. A rapid influx of people and unconstrained development from a third span of the Bay Bridge would thwart these efforts and overwhelm our community. Let the Eastern Shore be. That is what I believe.

Judy Gifford lives in Kennedyville and is co-owner of St. Brigid’s Farm.

About Dave Wheelan


Letters to Editor

  1. Robert Kramer says:

    Kent County is well suited to be a model for rural development. >>>>
    Judy, best comment ever made about the Third Bridge discussion. Of course, the proponents of a third span landing in our slice of paradise have a very narrow view of the world we live in.

    I’m a believer too.

  2. Deirdre LaMotte says:

    Judy, I agree with what you have beautifully written. Unless an
    area is protected, it will become blighted by the sameness found
    in every former attractive and livable area. Kent County is
    different. It has established a comprehensive plan, at the
    urging of its citizens, that maintains the rural integrity of its
    landscape. Why should this county become a drive-thru for
    north bound and beach bound people? Why should we be at the whim of land speculators? The mid-Atlantic is covered primarily
    in concrete and this is what will eventually happen here should
    this bridge be approved. No area is ever preserved when highways and bridges are built.

  3. Mike Waal says:

    Excellent, Ms. Gifford!
    Presume you have written a similar piece as a comment to MDTA. If not, please do.
    Thank you.

  4. Beryl Smith says:

    Thank you Judy for the best comments I have yet to read. It could not have been said better! Now we need to get to work to convince the naysayers that Kent is unique and special and should remain so with proper thought and care necessary to keep Kent County a place for all of its citizens.

  5. Robbi Behr says:

    I 100% agree with you on all points – well said and all the praise hands emojis.
    But I would also like to offer that I believe most folks who disagree with me (us) don’t disagree because they want to rip up the farmland and cart away topsoil or destroy “our way of life”. I think that our county has failed a lot of people who simply want good jobs, affordable healthcare, and access to things that they see other people having access to. Our college campus, natural resources, historic downtown, recreational activities, small businesses and high speed internet access mean very little if you can’t find a job and have to find someone to give you a ride to Easton (or further) for a doctor’s visit. I think the pro-bridge folks are rightly skeptical that a bold community development plan can actually happen in Kent County, and to them the only other option seems to be letting the western shore heavyweights just get things done because we know that SOMETHING needs to be done.
    Our comprehensive plan is quite ambitious and paints a really wonderful picture of what Kent County COULD be like. However I have seen very little action within our community leadership to put that plan into action (or even to trumpet its vision) and embrace change and assume risk and be proactive as you suggest. So, on the flip side, I wish I could believe in your plan of pulling our progressive farmers and talented and dedicated citizens together to work towards rural development. But it is sometimes so hard to believe! And yet, I remain hopeful. I am hoping the threat of the third span will spur us all into realizing the potential that our magical corner of the world holds.
    Thank you for your vision!

    • Janet Christensen-Lewis says:

      Robbi – You make some points about what the pro-bridge folks believe that I find disconcerting. If they think “The only option seems to be letting the western shore heavyweights just get things done”, I wonder if they have considered the following:

      • Baltimore City’s population fell by 36,500 since 2000 with the drop in 2016 bringing their population to a record 100 year low.
      • Baltimore City Schools closed because of heat, facility issues.(students and teachers were seen wearing coats in classrooms), a result of financial mismanagement.•
      • Baltimore County School Superintendent pleads guilty to perjury related to unreported consultant fees from company he signed contracts with for the public schools.
      • Interim Baltimore County School Superintendent under investigation for failure to disclose payments as consultant.
      • Baltimore city unemployment rate 5.9%
      • All non-magnet high schools in Montgomery County make latest list of Maryland lowest preforming schools.

      I would like to put to rest once and for all that Kent County has no jobs. Kent County has 382 jobs/1000 residents, as opposed to Queen Anne’s (with a bridge) of 286/1000. Kent County has jobs, as it was pointed out in a recent op-ed in the Spy: “Ask any employer in the county what their number one issue is and 9 out of 10 will likely say “finding and hiring good workers.”.

      Kent County has jobs but what they lack are skilled workers, building a bridge might help the employers but will not help those that want “access to things that they see other people having access to”. The bridge will not give people the skills they need to have a good job. We, the community, can and should find solutions to give our citizens the help they need to obtain the skills necessary to succeed. The work being done by you and others to improve the school system is a good example of how to identify problems and organize. A needs assessment would do more to help determine and target solutions than counting on the Western Shore, which has more than enough problems of its own.

      A bridge will likely have a negative impact on the health care . It increases the likelihood that University of Maryland will have more than enough reason to shutter our hospital. If a bridge is built, instead of getting a ride to Easton for healthcare, they will find themselves needing to find a way to get to Baltimore and paying a toll.

      I wonder if those who want a bridge to fix lack of employment and easy access to healthcare are not indulging in a case of ” greener pastures on the other side” because mending and maintaining a community is hard work and it is so much easier to just believe everything would be better, “if only”?

  6. As someone born , raised, educated and a former business owner in Kent County – I couldn’t agree more.
    Well said Judy!

  7. Marty Stetson says:


    Great job of pointing out the loss to our way of life is greatly diminished by what some see as progress. The bridge to Kent is not something you can turn back once it is built. This special place will be forever lost. I have said this so often at public meetings, have you ever seen a shopping center turned into farm? That may be a simplistic way of putting it but it rings so true. People who advocate for the bridge need to move to the Western Shore and live for a year before asking those of us who wish to live here to endure that way of life.

  8. Scott Nichols says:

    Unfortunately, as much as I agree with Judy Gifford’s assessment and points of view, she lays out few arguments against the proposed bridge. Chief among these arguments ought to be the huge cost of infrastructure to cross a wider portion of the Bay. Many other very tangible reasons exist, such as the need for higher structure to clear the shipping channel, leading to a longer bridge overall. Climate change and how it will affect the Bay crossing is yet another issue, with a high structure being affected not just by normal winds, but being closed to traffic due to more powerful storms. It will also create havoc to tourism, agriculture, and environmental issues. Almost any approach through Kent County will require extensive wetland preservation. Its no small issue that the Bay presents a huge deterrent to the crime of Baltimore being spread here. Lastly, Chesapeake Bay Foundation published info that leads them to believe that traffic across the Bay Bridge does not indicate the need for another crossing, and pointed out that a new traffic study should be done to update the stats on traffic volume.

    My point is, simply stating that Kent County is a better place to live because there is no bridge (which I emphatically agree with) isn’t enough. We must also argue against this idea in terms easily understood by legislators: It will cost too much, and it will create certain wide ranging problems which will need more money to solve.

    (my sarcastic side says:)
    Perhaps one way to solve it all is to demand that the new crossing be paid for by the old crossing, and that tolls be raised to make that happen. Then traffic volume would drop and the need for a new crossing becomes null. The resulting proceeds could be put toward Bay preservation.

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