The thought of tractor-trailers roaring down Route 161 past Darlington's houses on Main Street scares Beth Newton.
Four miles away, in the tiny town of Dublin, Jerry Scarborough said truck traffic on Route 136 is making that road dangerous.
That common fear, and ways to combat it, began an uncommon relationship between two towns.
Residents formed Darlington/Dublin Community Association Inc. to address issues confronting the two towns, such as traffic, zoning, crime and day care. The association hopes to ensure that the two rural towns are not overlooked by the county government.
"Darlington's problems are Dublin's problems and vice versa," said Mr. Scarborough, who moved from Darlington to Dublin two years ago. "We're all one. It's just the signs separating us."
Residents started the association as an informal group about a year ago to pull the two communities together and give them a larger voice in the county. The association soon was incorporated into a legal entity.
The association's president, Donald E. Brand of Darlington, said, "My original premise was to form an association to act as a watchdog" for development in the area. His concern arose from rumors that PECO Energy, the former Philadelphia Electric Co., which owns the Conowingo Dam and nearly 9,000 acres of land along the banks of the Susquehanna River in Maryland and Pennsylvania, was preparing to develop that land. (It wasn't.)
Mr. Brand, along with many other residents, is concerned that Harford's rapid growth and development could destroy their quaint communities. They think land is being developed haphazardly in the area, with too little consideration to the importance of zoning.
"Enough of us have lived in other places to see bad planning, or lack of planning really," said Jane Howe of Darlington, a member of the association's board of directors.
Ms. Howe said that because the communities are rural and sometimes feel unrepresented, they want to make sure they are not forgotten when it comes to zoning.
Barry T. Glassman, county councilman for the district, said he is happy the association formed because "it seems like every community around Bel Air has an association."
Mr. Glassman said that the association makes it easier for him to keep in touch with his constituents and that it has accomplished much in its first months.
"When you are organized, you get more things done," Mr. Glassman said. "If [the residents] have something they are concerned with, they have one or two people designated to call me."
Association members said they realize that growth is inevitable, but they think that it can be controlled. Two miles outside Darlington, a sign in a field off Route 161 advertises a neighborhood with 13 lots on which houses soon will be built.
"We don't want to oppose [the county]," Ms. Newton said. "We want to work with them and guide them."
The secretary of the association, Milly Riley of Darlington, said that years ago, there was a civic association for Darlington only.
The founders of the new group wanted to include their neighbors from Dublin, but found them "a little reluctant," Ms. Riley said.
"We tried to do a Darlington/Dublin group to involve their interests," she said.
"The association is mostly Darlington people," Ms. Newton said. "We're trying to pull more Dublin people."
The quarterly meetings alternate between Dublin and Darlington so that neither will feel slighted, and Mr. Scarborough said the first meeting, in Dublin, was well attended by that town's residents.
That first meeting, in March, covered discussions of a new bridge being built on Route 161, traffic and crime. Sheriff Joseph P. Meadows discussed the U.S. 1 corridor and police coverage for the area.
The meeting last month was devoted to children's issues, such as day care and parks and recreation. The Wilson Center, a free, after-school day care center, lost its funding when the school year ended. After the meeting, residents started trying to obtain funding from other programs.
Darlington, whose founders named it after their former home in northern England, is nestled in hills two miles from the Susquehanna River along Route 161, also known as Darlington Road.
Kenneth Movetz, the Darlington postmaster, said he has about 1,200 deliveries on his routes, which include part of Dublin. He estimated that he delivers to 4,000 people.
Dublin is a different story. To begin with, its founders named it after their former home in Ireland.
A small, green sign at the traffic light at U.S. 1 and Route 136 points the way to the town. A few miles down the road, at a flashing red light, Route 136 intersects Route 440. Dublin is roughly at that busy intersection, which has a market, a greenhouse, a hardware store, a used car and truck lot and the second station of the Darlington Fire Company.
"We're a crossroads," Dolores Wright of Dublin said. "It's four corners."
The next association meeting, scheduled for Sept. 14 at Dublin Elementary School, will cover a potential community watch program and rezoning.