By Omar Simpson
“It was a dark and dreary evening…rain poured down in sheets as Jack and Jill walked home from after school basketball practice…past the rusty old water tower…past row after row of old abandoned Army barracks. Thunder rolled and lightning flashed…something inside the partially boarded up building looked down on the children and moved…”
Sounds like the beginning of a horror flick right? Or maybe even a nightmare. What if I told you that right here in Harford County, right next to Edgewood and Deerfield elementary schools, the Boys and Girls Club, Edgewood Middle School and Edgewood High School there are street after street of creepy, old , abandoned buildings that would make horror authors Stephen King and Dean Koontz proud. Would you believe me? It is absolutely true!
Juniper Lane and the abandoned barracks that surround it are a “Law and Order” crime scene waiting to happen. It has all of the elements: abandoned properties, vagrants, gangs, gang signs spray painted all over, drug dealing and other nefarious activity. Don’t believe me? When you get a chance sometime (during the day please!) go to Juniper Lane in Edgewood. It’s Easy to get to. Just take Edgewood Rd. towards Aberdeen Proving Grounds, make a right on Cedar Drive and simply follow the road…it’s a loop and the old barracks and Juniper Lane will be on your left. You can’t miss it…a massive, rusting water tower near the entrance of Juniper Lane welcomes you to the neighborhood.
When you get there, do me a favor. Park near Juniper Lane, close your eyes and imagine that you’re ten maybe 12 years old. Imagine its after school, the sun is setting, you’re bored and walking near Juniper…you look up and see the water tower. What are you gonna do? If you’re like most kids, you’re gonna go check it out. “Coooooool”, you say when you get there. Then, you look straight ahead and see the mother load…row after row, dozens of empty, overgrown, boarded up buildings. It’s like having your own abandoned ghost town! “Wow”, you think as the sky grows darker, “I can’t wait to go exploring!” And just like that, you head off into the abandoned buildings.
What’s waiting for you? We already know. Besides the vermin, filth, snakes, roaches and other unsavory characters, we know that drug addicts, vagrants, gang members and others undoubtedly occupy these buildings. How do we know? The graffiti on the buildings, propped open windows and doors, used crack pipes, hypodermic needles and drug paraphernalia are pretty good indicators of what’s in there.
Something has to be done about this area and fast! It’s not only dangerous, but it’s an eyesore that depresses the property values of this entire area. Would you want to live near Count Crackula’s playground?! Would you? Anyone that is thinking of moving to this area will take one look at this monstrosity and haul tail. I know I would! It has to be addressed and fast!
But don’t you despise people that complain and complain about something without offering a solution. Right about now you may be thinking, “Blah, Blah, Blah…you’ve pointed out the problem, that’s easy…but what’s the solution? You community activist types are quick with complaints, but slow with solutions!”
Well I do have a proposal that I think can solve this problem…one that I have already shared with the head of the Edgewood Community Council and Councilman Dion Guthrie. It’s called the Edgewood Development Concept (EDC). In a nutshell the EDC calls for tearing down those abandoned buildings and bringing in universities, educational institutions, technology and engineering companies…the type companies that will benefit APG and the surrounding community. I’d follow the highly successful model used by North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park to completely revitalize central North Carolina when that areas’ economy collapsed. They learned that bringing in educational institutions and high tech companies draws high quality enterprises to an area…exactly what Edgewood needs. It’s a win-win-win scenario for Edgewood, Harford County and the Army at APG.
The future of Edgewood and Harford County ultimately depend on our ability to rehabilitate Juniper Lane and the other areas of the County like it. Let’s not forget Juniper Lane as BRAC moves forward. This is a grand opportunity to turn a community weakness into a County strength if done properly. If not, this area will continue to deteriorate and continue to draw dangerous elements into this community. But hey…maybe that’s Ok…I’m sure Hollywood and Stephen King would loooooove to shoot their next horror film there! They could even call it… “Nightmare on Juniper Lane!”