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July 4 HdG carnival move not her doing, mayor's sister says

Havre de Grace councilman says he has seen mayor's sister in the 'world's longest funnel cake line' at Indepen

Mary Martin, the sister of Havre de Grace Mayor Bill Martin, says she had nothing to do with a decision to move the city's annual Independence Day carnival from its traditional location at Tydings Park, which is across Commerce Street from her home.

Accusations that the carnival is being moved to another location to accommodate her have built up to the point Mary Martin spoke about them at Monday's City Council meeting, refuting claims that her home's location had anything to do with her brother's and the council's decisions about future July 4 celebrations.

"I just want to say that nothing can be further from the truth," she said during the public comment portion of the council meeting. "I love the carnival; people that know me know I love it."

The mayor's sister and her family have lived in their Commerce Street house for about five years. The structure was built on property that had been undeveloped, but she noted she lived on Commerce Street in the past.

City officials have been dealing with criticism in the press and the public that the carnival was moved because the mayor was trying to accommodate his sister and spare her from the noise and crowds of the carnival.

Mary Martin stressed that was not the case.

"I go around town, people say, 'Mary why do you want the carnival gone?' so I'm just here to say I love the carnival, I don't want it moved," she said.

She said she understands organizers wanted to move the carnival for logistical reasons, but "it's not me that's moving it; I've never asked anybody to move it."

She said she loves the food and the activity of the carnival, and described it as "my Christmas."

"You can't have a carnival without lights and noise and people," she said when asked if the event has become an issue for her and her neighbors.

The planning process for this year's Independence Day celebrations has been overhauled after members of the former Havre de Grace Independence Day Celebration committee resigned en masse following last year's celebration, and a city commission was formed by the mayor to take over planning and fund-raising. Members of the panel include his wife, Taryn.

Although the former committee members said they wanted to step aside and let younger volunteers take over, there had been friction between leaders of the committee and the mayor and some council members dating back to the summer of 2015 when wet weather forced postponement of the July 4 fireworks for several weeks and their eventual move from the park island to the Concord Point area.

For several months afterward, the committee was rebuffed by the mayor and council in its efforts to have a date set for the 2016 celebration, which finally occurred at the typical time with a carnival held in the park during the days leading up to the celebration.

City government leaders and the police chief have continued to express concerns about public safety, however, because of the thousands of people packing into the city for the traditional parade and fireworks and the carnival, particularly with regard to crowd control that evening. These concerns were voiced at several council meetings following the 2016 celebration.

The new commission had planned to hold this year's carnival at Hutchins Park in the downtown area, rather than at Tydings Park, but the carnival might not happen at all, as the operator who the commission had lined up is retiring because of health issues.

The commission has been trying to find another carnival operator. The parade, fireworks and a downtown concert are still on as scheduled for Sunday, July 2.

During Monday's council meeting, Police Chief Teresa Walter and Councilman Randy Craig backed up Mary Martin's assertions that she loves the carnival.

"I can personally vouch that Ms. Martin and her family love the carnival," Craig said. "I have seen her stand in the worlds longest funnel cake line."

Bill Martin said he was "ashamed" that his sister had to defend herself and "that my family got dragged into this."

"I don't know why people continue to spread a rumor," he said.

He encouraged people to send him an email at billm@havredegracemd.com if they have questions about Independence Day events.

"Everything is going to be fine," he said. "Anyone going around spreading rumors, you really have to question their motives at this point."

Springtime activities

Visitors can tour the city's water treatment plant April 22 and April 29 and see how water from the Susquehanna River is turned into fresh drinking water.

"It really is an amazing process, and I hope people take advantage of the tour...to see how your water is made," the mayor said.

The city will celebrate Arbor Day April 28 with a memorial tree planting in Tydings Park to honor the late Rev. Edward Heydt, pastor of Havre de Grace United Methodist Church, plus 100 trees will be planted near Todd Park with the assistance of local fourth graders, Al Caffo, of the city's Municipal Tree Commission, said.

Caffo gave the mayor and council an update on the activities of the Tree Commission, which works with the public works department to study and maintain the city's street trees.

He and other commission members have proposed updating a survey of Havre de Grace's street trees from the 1980s to measure how trees have changed, assess the risk for diseases and pests such as the emerald ash borer, locate sites for planting new trees and identify the largest trees that could be classified as Champion Trees.

"Trees are an important part of the Havre de Grace landscape," Caffo said.

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