Baltimore County Now
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
Over the past several weeks, we’ve celebrated the amazing fact that half of our Baltimore County high schools were ranked among the nation’s best, and that 19 County neighborhoods were rated among the best in the region. This got me thinking about what an exceptional place Baltimore County really is.
It seems that every week, another headline appears touting the successes of the people, employees and businesses of Baltimore County — and it’s getting hard to keep track of them all. I did a little research to see what other interesting facts I could uncover that demonstrate why Baltimore County is such a great place to live, work and play. Even I was surprised at how much we Baltimore Countians have to brag about!
Our Schools Rule
- In 2013, 52% of Baltimore County’s traditional and magnet high schools were named to national “Best Schools” lists.
- Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) has the second-highest graduation rate among the nation’s 50 largest school districts.
- Six BCPS schools earned Maryland Blue Ribbon honors in December 2012, and Maryland’s education system ranked top in the nation for the fifth year in a row.
- Baltimore County is home to five out of the fifteen colleges and universities in the Baltimore metro region, including the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), which educates nearly 74,000 students each year and half of all Baltimore County residents attending college as undergraduates in Maryland.
- An impressive 35.2% of Baltimore County residents over the age of 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Taming the Tax Burden
- In Baltimore County, there has been no property tax rate increase in 25 years and no income tax rate increase in 21 years!
- Baltimore County is one of only 39 counties out of more than 3,000 in the nation (or approx. 1%) with a Triple AAA Bond Rating, a tribute to our strong fiscal management.
- Baltimore-Towson ranked on The Atlantic’s 25 Best Places to Live for Recent Graduates list in 2012.
- CNN Money named Towson the eighth-best place in the nation for the rich & single.
- Baltimore-Towson was named the fourth-best place for baby boomers to pre-retire by Nerdwallet.com.
- West Towson was named “Best Neighborhood for Seniors” by AOL.
- With 817,455 residents, Baltimore County is more populous than its two nearest cities, Baltimore and Washington, DC, as well as the states of Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota and Alaska. Baltimore County is also larger in land than 30 countries around the world.
- With a cost of living that falls well below other Northeastern metropolitan regions, Baltimore County has great urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods that are culturally diverse communities and offer something for everyone. Nineteen of our neighborhoods were named in Baltimore Magazine’s “Best Places to Live 2013” issue.
- Baltimore County is home to many historic neighborhoods, with 388 designated Baltimore County Landmarks and 17 County Historic Districts. Baltimore County also has 86 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including two National Historic Landmarks.
- Baltimore County won six 2012 Achievement Awards from the National Association of Counties for several technology and safety initiatives.
- There are five hospitals in the county and 38 across the region, including those belonging to the Johns Hopkins Health System, whose flagship hospital has been ranked as America’s best for the last 21 years.
- Baltimore County is experiencing historically low crime rates, with a 22% drop in violent crime based on the last five-year reporting period.
- Thirty percent of Baltimore County’s land is preserved as parkland and open space — lands that provide for recreation, green space, drinking water protection, family farms and local food production (EPS sources). The County is ranked sixth-best in the nation for its agricultural land preservation program (Farmland Preservation Report 2011).
Our Festive Nature
- Baltimore County boasts more than 200 miles of shoreline, with beaches and 70 marinas and yacht clubs.
- Between our 200 parks and recreation sites, and the four beautiful state parks in Baltimore County, you can find great hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking trails, lighted artificial turf sports fields, nature centers, dogs parks, disc golf courses, and much more.
- Dundalk’s Heritage Fair was recently named the second-best community celebration in the U.S.
- Baltimore County is home to three of the top ten shopping malls in the state.
- Catonsville is known as Music City, Maryland, thanks to its multitude of music stores, venues and educational facilities.
- Baltimore County is horse country, with more than 140 picturesque thoroughbred horse farms.
- The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra offers summer performances at the Oregon Ridge Park outdoor amphitheater.
- More than a half million people flock to Timonium every year for the 11 best days of summer at the Maryland State Fair.
- Bengies Drive-In Theatre in Middle River is the biggest continuously operated movie theater screen in the USA.
- We have wine country! Enjoy Baltimore County’s portion of the Piedmont Wine Trail.
Baltimore County Office of Communications
While we don’t expect everyone to be in the market for horseshoes or a transmission for a school bus, you just might find yourself looking for barbecue seasonings, caulk, or eye shadow. The “shopping list” below includes just a few of the hundreds of manufacturers making products of all kinds right here in Baltimore County.
- You never know whether it will be the scent of cinnamon or nutmeg coming from McCormick’s Hunt Valley plants. The global seasoning and flavoring company is headquartered in Sparks.
- There’s a little bit of White Marsh in buses, ambulances, small trucks, and the latest energy-saving vehicles. The GM Baltimore Plant manufactures hybrid and medium-duty transmissions and electric drive motors to propel hybrid and plug-in vehicles.
- Salute your favorite Boy Scout when he earns a badge made by Lion Brothers in Owings Mills.
- It’s ice tea and lemonade season. Grand Brands in Rosedale manufactures TrueLemon and TrueLime flavorings, crystallized lemon and lime substitutes made with 100% all-natural ingredients.
- Cover Girl cosmetics come off the assembly line at Procter & Gamble Beauty in Cockeysville.
- DAP, Inc., is at the center of the push to save energy by weatherizing buildings. The company manufactures caulks and sealants at its Rosedale plant.
- Keep it clean with windshield wiper blades made by Saver Automotive in Halethorpe.
- Explore worlds historic and imagined with Sid Meier’s Civilization series of video games, developed by the creative team at Firaxis Games in Sparks.
- Patch the patio with Sakrete concrete, made by Bonsal American in Middle River.
- For the fleet of feet, Victory Racing Plate in Rosedale crafts custom horseshoes for thoroughbreds around the world, including more Triple Crown winners than any other brand.
Support our local Baltimore County manufacturers. It’s good stuff!
As part of the County’s commemoration of the anniversary of the desegregation of Gwynn Oak Park, "Opening the Gates: Celebrating Gwynn Oak Amusement Park 50 Years Later," several Baltimore County officials contributed their personal recollections about the park for Baltimore County NOW.
The Meeting Spot
Cynthia Pollock, Executive Assistant to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
I recall that, initially, when I was younger, we could not go to Gwynn Oak Park. My parents never elaborated, they just said that we could not go. There always seemed to be a lot of commotion going on. Later, when I became a teenager, Gwynn Oak Park was the meeting spot for us kids when we got out of school, especially on Fridays. We would meet up, catch the #38 bus, and we were let out right at the park. I have fond memories of riding the Ferris Wheel and the Wild Mouse, as well as eating too much cotton candy and meeting boys. Looking back, I realize that those memories would not have been possible without the trailblazers of the Civil Rights movement who picketed for equal rights for everyone.
A New Appreciation for Gwynn Oak Park
Adrienne A. Jones, Speaker Pro Tem and Delegate, Maryland House of Delegates
How do I remember Gwynn Oak Park? At nine years old, I was not permitted to go. I remember my mother's face as she explained why my brothers and I couldn't ride the rides or play the games like the kids on the other side of that gate.
Even after its desegregation, I didn't have the desire to go there for a very long time.
When Hurricane Agnes came in 1972 and flooded Gwynn Falls, I didn't truly feel the effect of the park's closing because I could not attend as a child.
In more recent years, my appreciation for the park has grown. The exclusion I felt as a child no longer exists, and I now sometimes visit the park to attend lively cultural festivals and the great events held there by community groups, nonprofit organizations and the faith-based community.
This timely commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Gwynn Oak Park's desegregation not only recognizes the past, it further opens the gate to a more diverse Baltimore County, and a more diverse Maryland. I look forward to seeing you on July 7.
One Sunday Afternoon at Gwynn Oak Park
Larry Simmons, Special Assistant to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz
Sarah Jane Bundy was the head of the local NAACP branch in our community when Gwynn Oak Park was desegregated. As I recall, she was responsible for encouraging parents and their children to visit the park. My first trip there, however, occurred the second summer after the park was integrated. My brother and I had planned the trip for several weeks after Sarah Jane spoke with our mother. One goal of the local NAACP branch was to recruit teens and young adults who would not react violently to taunts and physical threats, which was in keeping with Dr. King’s doctrine of non-violence. I guess we fit the mold, or perhaps we were just naïve.
The first trip was on a Sunday afternoon. We went to mass first, for a little extra spiritual strength and moral support. Then we joined three of our buddies and traveled to the park by bus. Yes, it was the #28 bus, which took us straight there. In fact, the park was located at the end of the line, which meant that the bus stop for the return trip was close by, in case there was trouble. We did our best to sit near the back of the bus because the older guys always held a “Motown Review.” Having an opportunity to travel through other neighborhoods was another highlight for most of us. My father owned a car, so I wasn’t too thrilled about getting on the rides at the park because touring Baltimore with my father and uncle on a Saturday afternoon was far more exciting, but that’s another story!
I remember entering Gwynn Oak Park for the first time. There were a couple of policemen near the gate who gave us a once over, but were more concerned about gate crashers. A few of the white kids also gave us the big stare-down, or as we called it, “The Look.” I was rather used to that look because I attended an integrated junior high school. While we were purchasing our tickets, several mothers pulled their children out of the line. That was to our advantage, though, because we were able to get on the rides quicker. As for the rides, the “Wild Mouse” was the best thing going. The other rides were fair, but the kids seemed extremely excited. Most people just seemed to be walking back and forth checking out the attractions, or losing money on the various games.
In the end, for me, that day didn’t feel all that different than any other Sunday afternoon. Only in my later years did I come to truly understand the significance of my first visit to Gwynn Oak Park.
During my high school years, a group of us decided to sponsor bus trips to other parks such Hersey, Glenn Echo, Wild Wood and Atlantic City. The venture proved to be rather profitable, although we still got those “looks” when we arrived at the out of state parks.
Whether local or across state lines, “The Look” was “The Look.” Fortunately, nowadays, if I go to parks like Gwynn Oak, “The Look” is no nowhere to be seen.
Black and White
Fronda Cohen, Baltimore County Office of Communications
Some of my favorite days as a kid involved a trip to my aunt and uncle’s corner grocery store. It was one of those small, family-owned stores where the shelves were so high you needed a long stick with a grabber at the end to snag a can of peas. The bottles in the large red Coca-Cola cooler needed an opener, and the penny candy actually cost a penny.
The neighborhood was Argyle and Mosher Streets. Today, it’s called Upton. The neighbors were black, and my aunt and uncle were white, but you’d hardly know the difference, the way folks would stop into the store just to say, “Hi, Mr. Morris,” to my uncle or, “Meet my new baby granddaughter,” or, “My son just got a great report card.”
In 1963, Mr. Morris could visit Gwynn Oak Park.
His neighbors could not.
Even a kid knew that just wasn’t fair.