The City of Havre de Grace became a twin city with the town of Mumbles, Wales, over the weekend, when 18 people from Havre de Grace traveled to the United Kingdom for a charter signing ceremony.
“It’s neat to know that 3,500 miles away, there’s a town that faces the same issues we face,” Havre de Grace Mayor William T. Martin, who made the trip, said Wednesday. “We are perfectly twinned, we have the same needs, social and economic, and we’re the same size.”
Martin, Councilmembers Casi Boyer and Carolyn Zinner, and 15 other representatives from Havre de Grace and the Havre de Grace Twinning Commission traveled to Mumbles for Saturday’s ceremony in Swansea, Wales, the town that oversees Mumbles.
Everyone paid their own way on the trip, Martin said. The only costs to the city were for flags or other city paraphernalia.
Twinning became popular in Europe after World War II, when towns in war-torn countries were trying to rebuild relationships with similar towns in other countries, Martin said.
It’s similar to having a sister city, but the towns have more in common with each other. Mumbles is also a twin city with Hennenbot, France.
Debby Stathes, who lives in Havre de Grace and has a house in Mumbles, brought the idea of twinning to Martin, who encouraged her to follow through.
“They’re very picky who they twin with,” Martin said. “They’re very choosy, they had to vet us.”
The towns are very similar — both have lighthouses and promenades, both have a Coakely’s restaurant (Mumbles’ is a seafood restaurant), both are on the bay and both have similar populations, Martin said. A big industry for both is tourism.
“And so the decision was made Havre de Grace and Mumbles are twins in many aspects,” he said.
When the Havre de Grace contingent arrived, they realized they have more than geographics and demographics in common, Martin said.
“We all knew we had similarities, then we started learning about some amazing similarities — problems with water and sewer infrastructure, aging infrastructure, roads,” he said. “They’re constantly looking for money to fund public art, that’s one of our initiatives; they’re looking at park improvements, so are we.”
They also learned Mumbles is trying to plant bee pollinator gardens, similar to efforts being made in Havre de Grace.
“It’s amazing how we have so many similarities. Not just social, but also governing and infrastructure,” Boyer said.
While the trip included tours of the town, visits to museums and a food festival, the highlight was Saturday, when Martin and Stathes signed the charter officially establishing the towns as twins.
Deputy Lord Mayor of Swansea Mark Child presided over the signing of the charter in Swansea’s Guild Hall.
The sheepskin document written in calligraphy was also signed by chair of the Mumbles Community Council Carrie Townsend Jones and chair of the Twinning Association of Mumbles David Townsend Jones.
Signs in Mumbles welcomed the Havre de Grace folks to their town, as did flags of Maryland and Havre de Grace.
The Havre de Grace guests stayed in their hosts’ homes to get to know them better — it’s more difficult to learn the culture staying in a hotel, Martin said.
The Mumbles contingent will visit Havre de Grace next year, and Martin said he hopes to have a new sign on Route 155 welcoming people to the city, a twin of Mumbles.