Military Base Closure Effects on a Community: The Case of Fort Ritchie Army Garrison and Cascade, Maryland
Thanner, Meridith Hill
Segal, Mady W
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Fort Ritchie Army Garrison in Cascade, Maryland, slated for closure as part of the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round, officially ceased military operations three years later on September 30, 1998. Despite the fact that Ritchie shut its gates more than seven years ago, a confluence of circumstances has prevented its reuse; the property remains the possession of the U.S. Army and the community has yet to benefit from reuse efforts. To understand how such base closings affect the local community (the place), as well as the character of the place, an ethnographic case study was undertaken. Interwoven with this understanding of place are individual stories of those affected by the closing and how they, based on their relationship to the place and the meanings they attach to it, responded to the closing and the ensuing reuse process. I conducted in-depth interviews, spent time in the community, reviewed archival records, and collected and analyzed demographic and economic data to quantify some of the social and economic impacts on the area over time, and conducted a post hoc Social Impact Assessment. By employing concepts of place to understand how the community came to see itself in relation to the fort (Ritchie), and how residents came to value and use the fort, several predominant themes emerged. Specifically, I found that residents have a strong sense of place and place attachment, in spite of obvious imbalances of power between different segments of the community, which result in feelings of disenfranchisement by residents from the local political structure. Though this dissertation is the story of how one community has responded and adjusted to the loss of the military, lessons can be learned by other communities facing base closings, as well as by federal entities tasked with overseeing and facilitating the process.