granddaddy of area civic council is about to celebrate an
anniversary, but no one is sure just what anniversary. It
generally is accepted that the Council of Civic Organizations of
Brandywine Hundred was born during the suburban boom of the
early 1950s, but a search of papers, documents, newspaper
clippings and other mementos has turned up items dating as far
back as 1938.
it was around in '54, but there was land use activity in 1949
and '50," said Frances West, a former president of the council,
who shares with Bernard Dempsey the distinction of being the
longest-serving executive-committee members still active.
is confusion over dating the council, West said there is no
question what brought it into being -- issues over zoning and
the intense controversy over alignment of the expressway that is
now Interstate 95. "What we were after was planned development.
... We had all come from someplace else and we knew what had
happened in other urban areas," she said.
had a handful of northern suburbs, such as Edgemoor Terrace and
Bellevue Manor, before World War II. There were also such
identifiable communities as Claymont, Bellefonte, Arden and
Talleyville. With the baby boom population explosion and rapid
industrial expansion -- particularly Du Pont Co. -- the largely
rural hundred was losing its farms and growing Fairfax, Graylyn
Crest, Green Acres and like developments
houses came a veritable army of young professionals -- "mostly,
early on, Du Pont engineers and chemists," she said -- for whom
careers and family rearing shared more-or-less equal priority.
What they found was government run by a network of people who
had grown up here or had been around for a long time. New Castle
County was governed by a three-member Levy Court.
mutual interest in protecting investment and maintaining the
suburban 'little bit city and little bit country' environment
they deemed preferable to traditional urban settings, it was
only natural that neighbors banded together to form civic
associations. In West's case she and others in Indianfield were
anxious about what was to happen to the open land across the
road which became Darley Woods.
way we were going to have an influence was to act together," she
said. "We formed taskforces. ... That was the only way to do it.
Many of our people had busy professional lives." Taken together,
the taskforces and information-gathering committees became the
model for what now are called 'umbrella' civic organizations.
West acknowledges that community interests frequently reflected
a prevailing 'nimby' -- 'not in my backyard' -- bias, the
Brandywine Hundred council managed more often than not to blend
the wishes of the immediate area with the larger interests of
the hundred and beyond. That, she said, is still underlying
have come and gone as issues have arisen and faded from public
interest, but out of the process emerged several council leaders
who went on to hold public office. Philip Cloutier, Gwynne
Smith, David Ennis, David Brady, Richard Sincock and Clarice
Heckert were state legislators; Thomas Gordon is a former county
executive; and Robert Weiner is a present County Council member.
West has held several appointive government offices. Marston Fox
was responsible for securing the strip along the Delaware River
that is now Fox Point State Park.
be expected, the council's record is a mixture of successes and
failures and several results that fell in between. Interstate 95
parallels the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad right-of-way, as the
council desired, but also bisects Ashbourne Hills, which the
council fought. Brandywine Town Center commercial complex was
built but to a negotiated design and a larger portion of the
former Brandywine Raceway property is now being developed
residentially. The former William du Pont estate became Bellevue
State Park; an expanded highway system in the Blue Ball area is
combined with public parkland; the Brandywine Hundred regional
library has replaced the outgrown Concord Pike library. Projects
like the widening of Naamans Road took considerably longer than
had been hoped, but eventually were completed. More
significantly, the land use process has evolved from the
original 16-page not-so-comprehensive comprehensive plan into a
more structured and professionally managed operation and
community voices are routinely heard as matters flow through the
that, if it appears the council has lost some of its clout in
recent years, that is understandable. Brandywine Hundred, she
said, "is pretty well built out" and generates few of the old
flash-point controversies. Nevertheless, she added, there is
still a role for the council as a watchdog to forestall erosion
of quality-of-life and to maintain the livability of now mature
and settled suburbs. And the 'umbrella civic association' idea
continues to have validity in the county's growth areas.
be said that if the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine
Hundred did not exist, it would be a good idea to invent it.
enthusiasm which usually greets a new professional baseball
season is tempered this year by continuing allegations that
Barry Bonds's achievements are flawed by his alleged use of
illegal performance-enhancing steroids. The San Francisco Giants
outfielder vies with Ruth, Aaron, DiMaggio and Williams as
arguably the greatest ever to play the game.
league baseball owes it to fans of all sports to thoroughly and
objectively investigate the extent to which this form of drug
abuse has affected the game. A crucial part of that is whether
Bonds should become another 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson and be made
to more than his proportionate share of responsibility. At stake
here is more than just whether his records should be marked with