Every few months, someone calls Cecil's Department of Planning and Zoning and wants information about changing the name of a road.
That's when Planner 1 Jason Boothe shifts his focus from planning to road names.
In the last half dozen years, only one private road request name has been granted.
"The process takes longer to get it done. It used to take a month. Now it takes two to three months. There is a mandatory public hearing and we have to wait 30 days," Boothe told the county council earlier this year.
Members of the Baeder family, of the North East area, requested that a private road be named "Eugene's Way" to honor Eugene Baeder. Boothe explained that the family submitted the application and provided the required fee. Boothe then went to work verifying that the road name wasn't duplicated anywhere else in the county. He also had to get approval from the Department of Emergency Services and notify the post office that the request was made.
As part of the road naming process, Boothe has had to familiarize himself with road names. Not all the roads were named in years gone by.
"A lot of records were lost. Prior to 1979 there was not an official name for every road," said Boothe. But in that year all roads had to have a name because of the newly introduced 911 system.
"I have learned a lot of history. A significant number of roads named here were named after people. A lot were named after landmarks, some were named for families.
There are 11 Main streets in Cecil County, and 10 roads named either Maryland or Delaware. There are a vast number or road names that start with the word Elk.
"We started renaming roads in 1979. We tried to eliminate duplicate road names. We know there is an issue with that. But fixing that is a lot easier said than done," said Boothe. "We don't have procedures in place to fix that."
So there continues to be a Frenchtown Road in Elkton, which had to do with a settlement near a railroad bed. And a Frenchtown Road in Perryville which likely had to do with goings on across the river in the French settlement of Havre de Grace.
Boothe said that developers tend to name roads after themselves or people they know. That means that some of the road names are not grammatically correct. "There can be no apostrophes in a street name. We can have nothing other than letters or numbers," said Boothe.
Boothe said that there are about 550 named roads in the county. Some of the names still cause him to pause. "Catswamp, Battleswamp? It makes you wonder how these roads got their name," he added. "There's usually some meaning behind it."