Petition Seeks To Rename Road ‘Gavin Knupp Way’

Petition Seeks To Rename Road ‘Gavin Knupp Way’
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BERLIN – A petition drive launched last week to consider renaming a portion of Grays Corner Road in memory of a 14-year-old boy killed in a hit-and-run collision appears to be gaining momentum and there is some precedent for the practice.

Around 10:45 p.m. on July 11, a black Mercedes driving eastbound on Grays Corner Road, a service road of sorts that runs between Route 589 and Glen Riddle Lane parallel to Route 50, struck Gavin Knupp, 14, of Ocean Pines, and left the scene. Knupp was reportedly a pedestrian on the roadway and returning to a nearby vehicle when the collision took place. He was transported to Atlantic General Hospital where he was pronounced deceased.

The vehicle involved fled the scene and did not return. Local law enforcement conducted a search for the vehicle allegedly involved. Six days after the collision, on July 17, the Mercedes identified as a possible link to the fatal hit-and-run was seized from a home in the Ocean Reef community near the airport off Route 611.

The vehicle, which had damage consistent with the collision investigation, was towed to the Maryland State Police Berlin barrack for further processing. In the many weeks since the fatal collision, official details about a possible suspect or suspects have been scant as the investigation continues. As of mid-week, no formal charges have been filed nor arrest warrants issued.

Meanwhile, the “Do it for Gavin” movement continues to gain momentum in the community still grieving the loss of the popular local teen and still waiting for answers from the investigation. Just last week, a petition was started on to have a portion of Grays Corner Road where the fatal collision occurred renamed or designated to Gavin Knupp Way.

By mid-week, the petition drive had garnered nearly 3,200 signatures.

“He touched so many people’s lives and he deserves to be remembered,” the petition reads. “He was a sweet and caring funny dude that everybody loved. What better way to honor our friend Gavin than by renaming a portion of Grays Corner Road to Gavin Knupp Way. Let’s all come together to make this happen.”

Grays Corner Road, officially Route 707, is a state-owned and maintained roadway and there is some precedent for at least dedicating or designating a portion of a roadway to an individual or group under certain circumstances. Maryland Department of Transportation-State Highway Administration (MDOT-SHA) Deputy Communications Director Charlie Gischlar said this week a state agency holds sway over a decision to dedicate or designate a portion of a state roadway when requested.

“The Maryland Transportation Commission handles the dedication of state roads,” he said. “These dedications are put in place in memory or honor of individuals or groups of significance to the state of Maryland.”

Gischlar said the General Assembly passed legislation defining the process for which a state roadway could be dedicated. He said renaming a state roadway was more complicated and not the preferred route for the commission to take.

“Designating or dedicating a highway does not change the underlying name or number of the road, but marks a segment of the road in honor of an individual or group,” he said. “Renaming a highway involves changing postal addresses, road signs, mapping services and notifying 911 and emergency responders. There is legislative precedent for both renaming and designation. The legislature drafted legislation that used the designation language instead of renaming.”

The Maryland Transportation Commission’s website outlines situations in which a roadway or portion of a roadway could be dedicated or designated to an individual or group. Again, renaming a state roadway is the less preferred option, but there is precedent for it.

“The Maryland Transportation Commission prefers that roadways and facilities be dedicated rather than renamed due to associated costs and other considerations,” the site reads. “Dedication is closer to actions taken over the years in response to such requests regarding state roads. As a practical matter, renaming typically requires costly reprinting of maps, replacing signs well beyond the immediate area, changing mailing addresses, and the reorientation of drivers, particularly those traveling through an unfamiliar area. However, under certain circumstances, the commission may recommend renaming of a particular roadway or facility.”

The Maryland Transportation Commission site goes on to describe certain circumstances under which a roadway or portion of a roadway would be recommended for dedication. For example, a dedication could honor an individual who is deceased after a distinguished career in public service to the state, or groups or individuals with special relevance for Maryland. In most cases, a roadway or portion of a roadway is dedicated to a law enforcement officer, firefighter, first responder or highway worker fatally injured in the line of duty. There are multiple examples of those situations statewide and around the Eastern Shore.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.