Nothing gets you thinking like the birth of a child. In this case, my third grandson. That makes three kids under 3 years of age. I have seen how fast a family can grow. I look forward to the future and also reflect on the past. Next year there will be three toddlers and I know how fast a year can go by.
It’s been a little over 30 years since I graduated from high school and since that time, the population of the county has doubled to about 250,000, which is less than half that of the city of Baltimore, to give some perspective. And while Baltimore continues to lose residents, Frederick County shows no signs of doing the same.
Historically it took Frederick County 185 years to break the 100,000 mark but only about 25 years to double that number. Almost everywhere you go, you can see it. The aqua-colored pipes sticking up out of the ground in the middle of fields that once grew corn.
So how long till we hit half a million? Twenty years, 30 years or will the growth stall? As long as the federal government continues to pump money into the area, growth is almost a guarantee. And by the time we hit 500,000, we should be the same size as Baltimore if they continue to lose large chunks of their population.
Frederick has always been in the orbit of D.C. and the pull continues to get stronger with every year and every increase in budget. Drawing more people in from the county and as far away as Pennsylvania. The main artery being the U.S. 15/Interstate 270 corridor, which has been only two lanes each way since I can remember.
If we’re really planning for future growth, then we need to expand the infrastructure that leads to a better quality of life for the residents. What happens in times of natural disaster? A prolonged drought with an expanding population could pose a serious problem.
Should we actively limit growth in the future? What does the county look like with double the population? How long till we get there? Will there be enough public services for residents or will there be no safety net? Your guess is as good as mine.
The one thing I know is that growth has been a bipartisan issue. There are way more questions than answers, but the money is going to have to come from somewhere. If it’s for better roads, schools and services, then I don’t mind paying more.
If we don’t have a plan for expansion and one for contraction, then I wonder how prepared we are for the future. In my lifetime, the population has more than doubled and the number of people who flow through the county on their way to work, my guess would be much more.
They say the best way to predict the future is to look at what has happened in the past. We can guide the growth or be ruined by it. And I’m not so sure that’s even possible. The history of the Mayans should serve as a warning. We may only have the illusion that we have any control over our surroundings.
John Jacobs is a lifelong resident of Frederick County.