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Growing neighborhoods

April 07, 1999

Like crocuses pushing their blooms up through the soil, a small garden of neighborhood associations is beginning to flourish all around Hagerstown. We heartily support them and invite citizens in areas where they're active to do the same.

The associations grew out of an initiative by some city government employees called "Neighborhoods First," which began after a 1996 city survey uncovered the fact that many city residents didn't know their next-door neighbors.

To change that, city workers put together a series of public meetings during which they explained this unusual concept: If the neighborhood needs something (a new park, perhaps) city government won't do everything for neighbors, but it will help. The idea is to get neighbors working together, instead of encouraging them to believe government can do it all.

According to Community Development Coordinator Larry Bayer, there are now four active associations: Ridge Avenue, Downtown Hagerstown, the Northwest community (including Carroll Heights and Hamilton Park) and the West End. A fifth group is forming now in the Jonathan Street area.

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Bayer said the four active groups are identifying issues that need to be improved to the enhance the quality of life in their neighborhoods. For example, the downtown group is looking at ways to get more people interested in buying property there and a more permanent street clean-up program while the Ridge Avenue group is seeking a pavilion for their local park.

The Northwest group is exploring ways to improve Hamilton Park, located behind the WJEJ radio transmitter, while the West End group, which has already succeeded in getting additional parking there, wants to do some beautification projects.

All four active groups, and the one that's forming, are meeting this month. The Jonathan Street group will meet tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Recreation Center, 109 W. North Ave., while the downtown group will meet Monday, April 12 at the Church of the Brethren, East Washington and South Mulberry streets. For a full schedule of all groups' meetings, or for more information, call 301-739-8577, ext. 133.

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