By Dylan Roche
Does it feel as if 2018 just whizzed right by you? You’re not alone – we’re sure many of our readers in Severna Park would say the same thing. But despite how fast it went, 2018 still brought with it many major news stories, especially at the hyperlocal level here in our community. So, let’s take a look back at the past four seasons and what everyone was talking about at the time. We’ve also got a few of our favorite photos we’re sure you’ll be excited to see again, as well as some of our Facebook posts that were popular among our followers.
With the beginning of January came the start to the Maryland General Assembly, and because 2018 was an election year, District 33 representatives convened with expectations of divisiveness and – more importantly – debates on key issues. Budgets cuts, taxes, paid sick leave, immigration sanctuary, a new bridge crossing the Chesapeake Bay and other issues were all expected to be sources of controversy.
January also marked a transition for the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce as Linda Zahn retired from her role as CEO after 27 years with the organization. Zahn stepped up with the chamber back in 1980 at the encouragement of a friend, Meg Anderson, who then was the president of the chamber’s board. Up until then, the chamber had not had an executive director, and Anderson saw that Zahn would bring “stability and growth,” as she put it, to help the chamber expand its presence.
“It turned out to be a great job and far more creative than I thought it would be,” Zahn said. Throughout the years, Zahn was responsible for expanding the chamber from 100 members to more than 600 members, developing new programs such as the Business Bites lunches, and creating new events, such as the popular Taste and Sip of Severna Park.
Stepping in to fill Zahn’s shoes was Liz League, who came from an extensive volunteer background and who raised four children in Severna Park. “I know many business owners through patronage, kids going to school together, and having them as neighbors,” League said in anticipation of beginning her new role. “I have great admiration for those who have taken the risk to start and run a business. And it’s wonderful to see that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Severna Park.”
The community said goodbye to a local leader with the passing of Marjorie Holt, Maryland’s first female representative in Congress. Despite facing opposition as a woman running for political office, Holt surprised everyone in 1966 when she defeated longtime political stalwart Louis Phipps Jr. in a race for clerk of the Anne Arundel County Clerk. She later ran for Congress to represent Maryland’s newly formed 4th Congressional District, and served seven successive terms in the House of Representatives. “She wanted to represent people honestly,” recalled Holt’s daughter, Rachel Tschantre. “She really wanted to make a difference so that things that were neglected could be attended to. She always wanted to leave something better and leave it healthy.”
On the same day as Holt’s funeral, thousands of people also gathered on the beach of Sandy Point State Park to jump into the 35-degree waters of the Chesapeake Bay and show their solidarity with Special Olympics Maryland, the beneficiary of the annual fundraising event known as Polar Bear Plunge. This year, the tradition raised $2,451,931.
Throughout the winter, construction continued on the new stadium, athletic fields and parking lots at Severna Park High School, and students who drove to school struggled to find parking with limited options at the school. The lack of parking forced many students to park in nearby neighborhoods, much to the frustration of residents.
Some students had to get resourceful to find a place to park. “I offered to pay $25 a semester to park at a couple’s house,” remarked Severna Park senior Mason Kelly. “They took the offer, so I park there every other day, as I only have classes on A days.”
The spring season sprang with the announcement of a major project to replace a culvert and remove the Shipley’s Choice dam. Although the project was scheduled to begin in June – and ultimately wouldn’t start until October – residents were advised well in advance that a portion of West Benfield Road would be closed for four to five months.
Department of Public Works spokesman Matt Diehl called the dam’s removal a safety issue, an assessment shared by Sheri Lott, an engineer manager for DPW’s Watershed Protection and Restoration Program. “Even if we weren’t taking the dam out because of a found soft spot, we would be looking at modifying what we call a best management practice because it is so outdated and ineffective,” Lott said.
The announcement of the $5.4 million project preceded the relocation of BGE, Comcast and Verizon lines throughout early March, followed by an assignment of the construction contract by the end of spring. The segment of West Benfield Road between Pixie Drive and Severnside Drive ultimately closed on October 8 for culvert replacement, the first phase of the project.
As spring continued, changes were also happening at the Severna Park Community Center. Sarah Elder joined the team as the center’s new executive director, bringing 25 years of leadership experience to a place that she described as being a little bit different every day.
“The motion of this place, the rhythm of this place is so much fun,” she said. “One thing that really attracted me was the opportunity to be front and center, out there interacting with people.”
Elder’s experiences with many nonprofit organizations have helped her develop skills in budgeting, strategic planning, staffing, operations, fundraising, marketing, retail, tourism and communications, all of which she saw as being relevant in her new role at SPCC.
Just in time for the start of spring sports, the new Severna Park High School stadium and athletic fields got their finishing touches and opened up for student use. The stadium, fields and parking lots were the last facilities to be completed on the SPHS campus, which was the site of much construction work since 2014 while the new school was built and the old school was torn down. The completion of this latest phase meant the extensive project was finally done.
But not all was well in school news this spring. Following the February 14 tragedy in which 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students at Severna Park High School and Broadneck High School joined their peers across the country in expressing their concerns about gun violence by participating in a 17-minute walkout. “I think more people are worried because the school in Florida was a school sort of like our school — it was a big high school,” said Anne Roman, a junior at Severna Park High. “So I think people have realized it could happen in a high school like ours.” About 70 students from Severna Park High participated in the walkout despite concerns that they would be suspended from extracurricular activities.
On the day following the national walkout, Severna Park High School opened its 29th annual production of Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival, this year featuring the theme “Ye Olde Tyme.” Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and Madonna were just some of the music icons portrayed during this year’s show, which featured nearly 100 student singers and dancers.
Another major tradition took place this spring when the Association for Severna Park Improvement, Renewal and Enhancement (ASPIRE) held its Leadership and Heritage Awards presentation, where a group of volunteers nominated by local clubs, civic groups and other associations were honored for making Severna Park a better place:
Additionally, Heritage Awards were given to:
Two major figures of the Severna Park community were lost in spring 2018. First was the passing of Detective Sergeant Wilbur Wells, a longtime volunteer, lifelong Anne Arundel County resident, and a U.S. Navy veteran. Wells served more than 34 years as a Maryland state trooper, and for 18 years, he was the Annapolis barrack sergeant. His leadership style was to be on the front lines with his troopers, taking care of them (fondly called “Wells warriors”).
Severna Park also said farewell to Newth Morris, whose many years of community service were highlighted most recently by his role as president of the Olde Severna Park Improvement Association – a position he held on three separate occasions and at the time of his death – and as executive director of the Severna Park Community Center, which he filled from 2013 to 2016.
“I think he knew he was able to make a difference in the lives of many, many people,” said his widow, Alice Morris. “He had a ripple effect. His energy and passion were infectious. Newth had a way of connecting with people that made them want to try harder even when they initially didn’t really want to. His energy drove motivation.”
As spring began the transition into summer, Anne Arundel County commenced the General Development Plan (GDP) process, working with citizen input it gathered throughout the fall and winter, and which, upon adoption by the county council in late 2019, will guide land-use decisions for the next 20 years. This past spring, the seven-member council made short-term strides to control growth and make the planning and zoning process more transparent by unanimously passing a temporary moratorium that will halt the acceptance of rezoning applications. Steve Schuh, then the county executive, proposed making the Small Area Plans a mandatory part of the GDP process, starting not with this cycle but the following cycle. That bill passed 7-0, as did legislation to notify property owners within 300 feet of a pending administrative hearing.
Summer commenced with great honors for both business owners and students. The Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce saw five of its nine nominees in the Small Business Administration’s annual awards get recognized at the state level:
Additional nominees from the GSPACC were:
Severna Park High School had plenty to celebrate in late May as two teams captured state championships. With a thrilling 8-7 victory over Churchill on May 23, the boys lacrosse team won its third consecutive state crown. Equally impressive was the softball team, which thrashed Northwest 13-0 in 4.5 innings to end the year 24-2 overall and win the program’s first state title since 2003.
Finally, the 2017-2018 school year concluded with two important rites of passage. Seniors from Severna Park High and Broadneck High dressed up and danced the night away at their respective proms, and then accepted their diplomas and switched the tassels on their caps at their respective graduation ceremonies.
Summer heated up with the annual Fourth of July parade, which this year honored Linda Zahn for her work with the chamber of commerce. “It feels great — being grand marshal is a great honor,” Zahn said. “The parade is a nice memory, but it’s nice to be on the other side of it.”
The parade featured nearly 100 entries, including floats and walking units, from civic groups, businesses, neighborhoods, school groups, sports teams and political candidates.
The summer was also a milestone year for the Olde Severna Park community, which celebrated its 100th anniversary. The neighborhood was founded in 1918 by some businessmen from Baltimore City who saw an opportunity to develop the pristine land at the Boone train station along the mostly untouched Severn River. On August 25, 2018, hundreds of residents gathered at Hatton Beach to celebrate the neighborhood’s roots and close out the 100th summer with some revelry.
With summer drawing to a close and students returning to school, many supporters of the SPHS football program were eager to see the first home game played in the new stadium after spending four years without one. Playing the first varsity football game on the school’s newly constructed stadium field, the Falcons overcame a lightning postponement at halftime of their season opener with North County and a stiff challenge from the Knights to secure a 34-28 win.
Now that the lazy days of summer had drawn to a close, the community of Severna Park hustled and bustled with activity again. In advance of the next GDP, County Executive Schuh and Planning & Zoning Officer Phil Hager started a Citizen Advisory Committee to complement the feedback accrued during the public listening sessions.
Two residents of Severna Park and Arnold – Amy Leahy from the Greater Severna Park Council and Elizabeth Rosborg from the Arnold Preservation Council – joined 15 other residents on the committee. “The people who are on the CAC are plugged into their communities,” Hager said. “If the CAC differs opinion-wise from the feedback we received during the listening sessions, we would be surprised because we felt like we were well represented, but we would certainly have to take that into account. We think this is a valuable tool and will produce a document that expresses the wants, needs and desires of the citizens of Anne Arundel County.”
Fall brought with it a lineup of outdoor activities, the biggest of which was the annual Fall Harvest Festival at Kinder Farm Park. For nearly 10 years, the festival has grown in popularity. What initially started as a simple day for local families to enjoy the park has developed into a festival drawing up to 14,000 people in attendance. Every year, the entire park is decorated with fall-themed décor, ranging from pumpkins to ornate straw sculptures created by park rangers, and children enjoy seeing cows, pigs, goats, chickens and rabbits.
Election Day arrived on Tuesday, November 6, bringing a host of new faces to public office for Anne Arundel County and the Severna Park and Arnold area in particular. Voters elected Amanda Fieldler to represent District 5 on the Anne Arundel County Council, and incumbent Steve Schuh lost the race for county executive to Steuart Pittman. Ed Reilly retained his office as state senator for District 33, as did Michael Malone and Sid Saab in the House of Delegates, but a surprise eleventh-hour total of absentee and provisional ballots showed that Heather Bagnall took 16.1 percent of the vote to claim the third delegate seat over incumbent Tony McConkey.
Also celebrating a huge win in the weeks before Thanksgiving were the Severna Park High School cross country teams. Both the Falcons boys and girls teams captured 4A state championships, the second consecutive one for the boys and the fifth in the last seven seasons. This marked the first time for the girls team since 2009 and the sixth in the program history.
The next day, the Severna Park girls soccer team’s hot season came to a frosty end on November 11 as the Falcons were outplayed ever so slightly by a very strong Walt Whitman team in bitter cold and wind in the 4A state semifinals. Although they lost the state championship, the girls played an outstanding season as they exceeded outsiders’ expectations, gained momentum while tearing through the regular season, won the county championship, slayed the defending state champs in the region final, and subdued teams near and far with a smothering brand of defense and a balanced offense.
Finally, the first week of December ushered in the start of the holiday season, signaled in Severna Park by the tree lighting ceremony in Park Plaza. After gathering at the office of the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce for live entertainment and refreshments, a crowd of revelers worked its way over to the nearby shopping center to greet Santa and Mrs. Claus as they arrived by fire truck.
And that’s a wrap for 2018, Severna Park – we expect 2019 will be just as exciting!