What will life in Washington County be like 25 years from now?

Community leaders offer their visions of the year 2035

December 29, 2010
  • Community leaders predicted that in 25 years, people will continue to live here and commute to the Washington, D.C., area.
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

As we did back in 1985, The Herald-Mail recently asked community leaders to predict what Washington County will be like  25 years from now.

The following are their visions for 2035:

Elizabeth Morgan
Washington County Public Schools

 Morgan provided perhaps the most startling prediction, suggesting a major change in education would take place over the next 25 years.

"We're going to return to one-room schoolhouses," Morgan said.

She said that by 2035, schools will be in the form of telecommuting centers across the county, where students will learn virtually.

Virtual field trips involving large projection screens and holographic images will allow students to visit a zoo or go back in time to the Civil War.

"Kids are not going to be coming to schools in 25 years. Only in specialized circumstances," Morgan said.

Students will read less and there will be no newspapers as we know them, Morgan said. But, people will be able to read anytime, anywhere with devices that can be held in the palm of the hand.

Heat-sensitive microcomputers will allow people to instantaneously access information, projecting it onto their hands, Morgan predicted.

With the continuing boom in technology, children will be brought up in more isolated environments in which they and their parents won't leave their homes unless they want to, Morgan said.

Morgan also predicted that gas, oil, water, and utilities would be scarce.

In what was not necessarily a prediction, Morgan said she hoped people would become more civil.

Today, "We're living in this kind of Jerry Springer world," she said. "People are so rude to each other and really mean."

John Frye
Washington County historian

"We will continue to be urbanized. We will continue with the urban sprawl. That will not stop," Frye said.

Frye said he doesn't foresee a major manufacturer, like a Fairchild or Mack or Pangborn, moving to the county.

"In fact," he said, "we will be more of a service community than we are now.

"I think the changes will be more gradual. We're pretty well set now for what we'll be for the next 25 years."

Frye reiterated a prediction he made in 1985, in which he said education will be geared more to individual students, whether they are advanced students or slower learners.

Timothy Troxell
Executive director
Hagerstown-Washington County
Economic Development Commission

The county will experience residential, commercial and industrial growth along with increased traffic on the interstates, resulting in a more congested Hagerstown area, Troxell said.

"However, the more rural areas of our community will still offer a more tranquil setting and slower pace of life," Troxell predicted.

He said he thought the percentage of manufacturing jobs here will decline a little.

With fiber-optic lines along the interstate, more technology-oriented companies, including biotech companies, will come to Washington County, Troxell said.

"I think, by then, they'll be here. I don't think it's going to be a huge change," Troxell said.

And, as we do now, "We'll still have our share of warehouse distribution centers because of our location," he said.

Robert E. Bruchey II
Mayor of Hagerstown

"I don't believe we're going to have a lot of urban sprawl," Bruchey said.

He predicted that officials would find ways to use the old Washington County Hospital building, the old Municipal Electric Light Plant and former First Urban Fiber complex, the latter two of which are at the intersection of Eastern Boulevard and Memorial Boulevard/Mount Aetna Road.

In the future, there will be many more smaller businesses that focus on technology and bioscience, Bruchey said.

"I believe that we can be a driving force in that area, given our location to Washington, D.C., and Aberdeen (Md.) and Fort Detrick," Bruchey said.

Bruchey said there will be a huge difference in the makeup of government, although there still will be municipal and county governments.

"But I believe, especially with Hagerstown, (you) will see us reaching out further into the county in a metropolitan style, and I believe we have to do that given the economic situation and the resources we have available," Bruchey said.

He said he believes that will be done not through annexation, but through mutual agreements with the county for service areas.

Allan Powell
Retired professor

Powell predicted that urban sprawl will continue after the recession fades.

There will be more congestion and urbanization, and more outside corporations will enter the county, taking over local businesses, he said.

John  R. "Jack" Hershey Jr.
Retired businessman

Government might be cut back in the short term, but in the long run government will get bigger, Hershey predicted.

"I see a continuation of growth because we enjoy the four seasons here in Washington County," Hershey said.

People will continue to live here and commute to the Washington, D.C., area because of the higher-paying jobs there, Hershey said. But they are willing to drive 50 to 70 miles to work because of the lifestyle here.

Hershey said he thought the population will increase because more big companies with government contracts will relocate to the greater Washington, D.C., area.

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