Catoctin High School Class of 2017 Safe and Sane recently held their first Dining for Dollars fundraiser at Roy Rogers in Thurmont. Their next Dining for Dollars fundraiser will be held on August 15, 2016, from 5:00-8:00 p.m., at the Chipotle Mexican Grill, located at 7820 Wormans Mill Road in Frederick, and then again at Roy Rogers in Thurmont on Saturday, September 24, 2016.

Cole Mercer - Safe and Sane

Senior Cole Mercer dresses up as Roy Rogers to greet customers at the Catoctin High School 2017 Safe and Sane’s Dining for Dollars fundraiser.

Nicholas DiGregory

Fort-RitchieMany residents of the historic Fort Ritchie and the surrounding town of Cascade, Maryland, are concerned regarding the manner in which Washington County government’s redevelopment plan for the retired military base was communicated to current residents. The redevelopment plan requires existing buildings at Fort Ritchie to be torn down to make room for a new mixed-use development called Cascade Town Centre. The development is intended to bring new residents and businesses to Cascade.

In mid-July, around ninety families that reside on the grounds of Fort Ritchie discovered that their leases would not be renewed and that they are being forced to relocate when their leases end over the next six months, some as early as September 2016.

The decision to terminate the leases of the residents of Fort Ritchie came on July 12, 2016, when the Washington County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to take the Fort Ritchie property from the current owner, PenMar Development Corporation, and transfer it to Washington County. Arrangements were approved by both parties, stating that ownership of the property would be completely transferred by September 15, 2016, and that redevelopment plans would be put into effect for Fort Ritchie by January 2017.

To many of the residents of the retired military base, the county’s decision to take charge of the property and its redevelopment came as a complete surprise. While the residents understood that redevelopment of their community was likely ever since the base was put up for sale by PenMar in 2015, not one of them anticipated being thrown out of their home so abruptly.

Jodi Gearhart, a single mother who lives in Fort Ritchie with her two thirteen-year-old children, said that she had no idea that the property was being transferred and that leases were being terminated until she read an article online by CJ Lovelace of Western Maryland’s Herald-Mail Media group.

“My initial notification of the issue was my neighbor,” Gearhart said. “He asked if I had read the Herald-Mail. I told him no, and he then told me that we have to be out by September. I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’”

Gearhart said that it was not until July 14 that any written notification of the lease terminations was provided by PenMar or Washington County when some, not all, of the residents received letters.

Gearhart also said that the method by which the information was communicated seemed strange, “Normally, when PenMar has something, they take it and they put it in your door,” Gearhart said. “They come around on a little golf cart with the notifications, and they stick them in your storm door, like if they are having some kind of function or a traffic change. So I’m not sure why they felt like they had to physically mail them, and not just go around and post them, then we would have known the same day.”

Gearhart stated that hers and her fellow residents’ frustrations grew when Washington County officials refused to put anything concerning the redevelopment plan into writing until September.

“One of the biggest issues is that Washington County and PenMar right now are lacking in their transparency,” Gearhart said. “I live in Washington County, I work for Washington County, and I pay taxes to Washington County. This is my county. It’s different when the county tells you that you’re out, and that you have a few months to get out.”
Disturbed by the county’s lack of communication and concerned about the redevelopment plan, the residents of Fort Ritchie and the surrounding town of Cascade decided to take matters into their own hands by organizing a “Save Fort Ritchie” campaign.

Lev Ellian, a resident of Cascade, created the campaign when he built a Facebook page entitled “Save Fort Ritchie.” Gearhart and several other residents joined Ellian and created Twitter and Instagram accounts for the campaign as well. The Facebook page is currently being followed by more than 350 people.

Sterling Sanders, a nineteen-year-old resident of Cascade, helps run the daily social media operations, as well as organizes events for the “Save Fort Ritchie” campaign. Sanders helped to organize and lead a series of protests and prayer circles for the residents of Fort Ritchie to express their concern and to come together as a community.

“The prayer circle, instead of giving a message to the county, is giving a message to the community, letting them know that: we are sticking together, we are still here together, that we are going to fight this, we are going to stay together, and that we are going to put our faith in God,” Sanders said. “On the other hand, the protests send a message to the county that says ‘Hey, we aren’t going to give up on this, we’ve done this before, and we are going to do it again.’”

More than a hundred residents attended the protests held in July. While all present mainly protested the removal of the Fort Ritchie residents from their property, many of the protesters also voiced concerns ranging from distrust of the investors interested in purchasing Fort Ritchie to a fear of crime and pollution increase due to over-development.

In addition to the protests and prayer circles, the residents of Fort Ritchie and Cascade drafted a petition, asking Washington County officials to postpone the redevelopment plan until a public forum is held for residents to voice their opinions.

The petition, which was signed by nearly 200 individuals, was sent to the Washington County Board of County Commissioners, PenMar, Maryland District 2 Senator Andrew Serafini, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

While no written response from Washington County or PenMar officials has been released, Washington County Administrator Greg Murray and PenMar Executive Doris Nipps both said that the redevelopment of Fort Ritchie must proceed in order to bring back jobs and revitalize the Cascade area.

Despite these statements, the residents of Fort Ritchie and Cascade continue to reach out to the residents of surrounding areas and to members of the Washington County government to work toward a compromise to ensure the continued well-being of the displaced families and the historic grounds of Fort Ritchie.

“We can’t all just do this on our own; we’d like all of the people of all surrounding areas to get involved with this issue,” said Sanders. “Even if we don’t win this fight, I think it would really help and really be a great thing for us all to become closer with all of the people in the surrounding areas as a community. So whether or not we win in the end, we will, I think, get closer as a community, and hopefully get closer with our government, to open lines of communication with them and come together.”

James Rada, Jr.
2016-07-12_JAK_1496Early Tuesday morning, July 12, 2016, a line of tour buses pulled into Thurmont’s Community Park. About 250 rock musicians and roadies spilled out of the buses, stretched, and got ready to work.

They separated into groups and spread out throughout the community, not to sing and play instruments, but to help beautify the area.

They were part of the Vans Warped Tour, a traveling rock revue, featuring dozens of bands. Not only have members of the tour helped beautify communities, but they have also helped out in the wake of big disasters such as New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.

This year, the group is helping out along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, the historic and scenic byway between Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Charlottesville, Virginia. Working with Shuan Butcher, director of communications for the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, the group identified places where they could be of some help.

“It’s a great activity, and they came ready to do some hard work,” said Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird.

By 7:00 a.m., groups had divided up to help out in the park, the Catoctin Furnace, the Thurmont Historical Society, Cunningham Falls State Park, Owens Creek Campground, the Emmitsburg watershed, the Appalachian Trail, and Catoctin Mountain Park.

Donna Voellinger, president of the Thurmont Historical Society, said that eighteen people came to assist historical society volunteers with outdoor work to the grounds.

“They didn’t need a lot of direction,” Voellinger said. “They just needed a task.”

She added that both the Warped Tour volunteers and the Historical Society volunteers seemed to have a lot of fun while they worked.

A group of artists painted a mural on the basketball court wall in Community Park.

“It’s a great piece of art,” Kinnaird said. “It adds a lot to the basketball courts and the park.”

The groups met back at the park for lunch around noon and headed out of town after that. A few of them stayed later to finish the mural, but even those stragglers were gone by 6:00 p.m. They left behind not only a more-beautiful area, but a piece of art that will remind residents of their generosity for years to come.

The day of service for the Warped Tour volunteers came between concert days in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Mansfield, Massachusetts.

Photos Courtesy of
Mayor John Kinnaird (fourth from right) stands with a group of talented artists of the Vans Warped Tour in front of the awesome mural they painted on the wall by the basketball courts in Thurmont Community Park.

July 2016
by James Rada, Jr.


If You See Something, Say Something
Emmitsburg officials are pushing a new program to encourage residents to report suspicious activity to the sheriff’s department, and not just wait for the deputies to find the problems.

“It’s up to us,” said Emmitsburg Mayor Don Briggs, during a recent town meeting. “It’s our community.”
Reports can be made anonymously to 301-600-2071 or by e-mailing

Modifying the Sidewalk Ordinance
The Emmitsburg mayor and town commissioners discussed modifications that they may make to the town’s sidewalk ordinance. They discussed who is responsible for debris and trash on the sidewalks in front of their property, as well as who is responsible for repairs to the sidewalk.

“If you look at our main street and if you look at our neighborhood streets, we want to have this walkability piece in place,” said Commissioner Tim O’Donnell. “We want it to be a safe and clean environment for our kids and elderly and ourselves. And we want it to also be an inviting environment.”

Commissioner Joseph Ritz, III was hesitant to support the changes because he feared that the property owner would be held responsible for something for which they actually aren’t responsible.

Town staff will make additional modifications and clarifications to the ordinance and present it to the commissioners again during the August town meeting.

Town Fails to Locate Dog Park
The Emmitsburg Mayor and Commissioners discussed the budgets, pros and cons for two possible locations for a town dog park. One location is off the end of Cedar Avenue, and the other location is off the end of the parking lot by the Babe Ruth field. The first location would require substantial grading, while the second location would need to have the water line extended to it.

Commissioner Cliff Sweeney recommended siting the park at the second location and applying for additional grant funding from the Maryland Community Parks and Playgrounds. The additional funding would be used to pay for the water line extension needed for the dog drinking fountains at the park. The motion failed 2-3.

The commissioners are planning to revisit the issue during the August meeting, at which time they hope to have more community input.

For more information on the town of Emmitsburg, visit or call 301-600-6300.


Keep Your Grass Out of the Streets
The Thurmont Police Department reminds residents that it is a violation of town code to “blow cut grass, weeds, and/or leaves into the street or gutter of any Town street.” If it does happen, it needs to be removed within four hours, and it cannot be washed into the storm sewer. Violators can be fined $50. Violators can be reported by calling 301-271-0905 x105 or via the town website ( under the “Report a Concern” tab.

Palmer Alley Work Delayed
The asphalt work that was planned for Palmer Alley has been delayed. The plan is that the work will still be done this summer, and residents will be notified before the work begins.

National Night Out is August 2
The annual National Night Out event in Thurmont is planned for August 2, 2016, from 6:00-7:30 p.m. The goal of National Night Out is to create stronger relationships between community members and local law enforcement. National Night Out seeks to heighten crime-prevention awareness, build support and participation in local anti-crime programs, and most importantly, send a message that our neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

For more information on the town of Thurmont, visit or call the town office at 301-271-7313.

You’re invited to take part in the first-ever in-issue Catoctin Banner Auto Show. It’s free to participate, and winners receive Catoctin Banner bragging rights and a custom t-shirt designed and provided by E Plus Copy Center & Promotions. To submit an auto entry, simply email a photo of you in or next to your auto (motorcycle, car, or truck) to or drop by with your photo to E Plus Copy Center in the lobby of Jubilee in Emmitsburg. Select which category (one per entry) you’d like to enter.

Entries will be received until 5:00 p.m. on August 19. The top three entries in each category will be shown in September’s issue and votes from our readers will be taken until September 20 by calling the contest line at 240-288-0108. Winners will be announced in the October issue of The Catoctin Banner newspaper. See the ad on page 43 for categories and more information.

Eighth in the series of the Lions Club Christmas Ornaments, the 2016 ornament features a beautiful, wintery holiday scene at 3 West Main Street in Thurmont. Once again, “Christmas at the Train Store,” features the artwork of the very talented local artist, Rebecca Pearl. Currently, the Christmas ornament is in production and will be ready for distribution this fall. Price is $10.60 (tax included). To order and reserve your ornament, please call Lion Joann Miller at 301-271-3913. View the advertisement on page 5 for more details.

Emmitsburg Volunteer Ambulance Company (EVAC) is hosting an American Girl Doll & Longaberger Basket Bingo on Sunday, September 25, 2016. Each game will include an American Girl Doll and Longaberger merchandise. View the advertisement on page 17 for more event details and on how to get your tickets.

Don’t miss the Gospel & Blue Grass Music Festival on Saturday, September 24, 2016, from 1:00-6:00 p.m. Festival features the local talents of Carroll County Ramblers and Hanover Express. Admission is free, but they welcome donations. View the advertisement on page 15 for more information.

The Blue Ridge Sportsmen’s Association is holding many not-to-miss upcoming events: August 5, 12, 19, and 26—Bar Bingo at 7:00 p.m.; August 7—Cash Bingo; August 14—Horseshoe Tournament at 11:30 a.m.; August 20—Crab Leg Feed, from 1:00-4:00 p.m., and more. View the advertisement on page 28 for more information.

You won’t want to miss the Rocky Ridge Carnival, held the week of August 15 through August 20, 2016, at Mt. Tabor Park in Rocky Ridge. Come out for the nightly live entertainment, rides, food, ice cream, and more. View the advertisement on page 8 for more information.

The Thurmont Business Showcase will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2016, from 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., at the American Legion. Event will feature businesses, cuisine, demonstrations, and nonprofit organizations from the Thurmont area. View the advertisement on page 10 for more information.

The 2nd Annual Fun Festival will be held on Saturday, September 17, 2016, from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Event features games, door prizes, face painting, live music, snacks, and much more. You can also meet Princess Leia and Chewbacca! View the advertisement on page 45 for more information.