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College Park – Home of Dinosaurs?

Nodosaur fossil in College Park

Yesterday’s news of the discovery of a baby dinosaur in the College Park perhaps added a new slogan to the the city’s official tag line – College Park – Home of Dinosaurs.

According to this Washington Post report, a local dinosaur tracker in College Park discovered the fossil of an armored dinosaur hatchling estimated to have lived 112 million years ago.

The discovery was made in 1977, but scientists at Johns Hopkins University waited until now to tell us about it. The fossil was identified as a baby nodosaur, of the family Nodosauridae — a short, plant-eating dino with both flat and spiky plates on its back.

The infant armored dinosaur, smaller than a dollar bill, apparently drowned in a flood plain not long after it hatched during the Early Cretaceous Period. Its remains were buried in sediment, fossilized and preserved in rock until 1997.

That’s when amateur fossil hunter Ray Stanford of College Park found the rock in College Park.

Last week, Stanford and Johns Hopkins University scientist David Weishampel described the fossil in an article published the Journal of Paleontology. And they gave the little dinosaur a name: Propanoplosaurus marylandicus.

Weishampel, professor of anatomy at the Hopkins School of Medicine, called the animal the youngest “nodosaur,” or armored dinosaur ever discovered, and the first hatchling of any species ever found in the eastern United States.

Power Out in Entire City

It’s now early Sunday morning. The entire city is now out of power. Power went out at around 4am. If you want to know the status of outages, please see Pepco’s website or call them, please see my previous post to find their number.

I drove around our area. Fortunately there hasn’t been any structural damages, I did see a number of fallen trees. I took a few pictures which I will submit tomorrow. (I’m making this post from my cell phone)

Btw, all traffic lights are out too, so please drive safe.

[Update: 8/29: Please see the pictures I took yesterday]

5.8 Earthquake Strikes DC Area

FEMA’s website offers guidance on what to do to stay safe in the event of an earthquake. Click here for more information.

Volunteers Spend Morning to Beautify North College Park

It was 8am yesterday at the MoM / REI  / Pizza Roma shopping parking lot. Some 20 plus volunteers gathered around a table at the east side of the lot, adjacent to Rhode Island avenue. The table was adorned with some essential stuff, black trash bags, packs of blue hand gloves and orange vests. On one side, volunteers started their morning breakfast – with bagels and creme cheese, hot coffee, juices and water.

Soon they were assigned with routes. “Let me take my troop to Narragansett PkWy area” – said Moira Mcguire. Moira is a member of the local AlHuda school community and brought her 4 children at the event. Other members spread out to cleanup two major nearby streets – Rhode Island Avenue, and Edgewood Road. Another group went inside the adjacent Hollywood Elementary school’s backyard.

At the end of they day, they collected some 20 bags of trash from these areas. The County’s Public Works came later to pick up these trash bags.

Earlier, while volunteers gathered at the table, a call came from Abdul Kader, the owner of the local Pizza store Pizza Roma. “I see volunteers at our parking lot, can I pitch in?“. And he did, with his popular pizza that volunteers enjoyed much at the end of the event.

Thanks to the CBE (Committee for a Better Environment) and the local groups such as the AlHuda School community who helped organize the event and made it a success.

My First Blog Annivarsary

Today marks the first anniversary of this blog.

 Exactly a year ago, I started this blog. In the first post, I tried to explain about this new venture – “I thought, I should write a little on the content of the blogs I’ll be posting in the coming days and weeks.”

That’s right, I only thought I could keep this afloat only for a few weeks – who knew it would’ve stepped into its second year?

Thanks to you – my neighbors and especially the support of my family that have kept this going – one post a day, everyday.

At times, things have been a little tough. This blog is all about this little neighborhood – not even about this small college town. This often made getting a daily blog topic a little challenging task me. Fortunately, something was always going on even in this small part of the town – and I could always find neighbors wanting to talk about those topics. It has always been fun to discuss things that they find useful.

But the most challenging part I found was finding time to write. Blogging isn’t my full-time job, I don’t get paid for writing this blog (most bloggers don’t – so no surprise there). Nor do I have an army of reporters who comb through the neighborhood and write stories for me. I’ve a day job, a part time teaching job, both are fairly demanding, not to mention the essential quality time I (must) spend with my family at home. Fortunately, my family is kind enough to lend some of their precious time and on top of that I get about an hour during my Metro commute to work (I always take my laptop with me). That should probably explain the secret of my little tme management about this blog project.

This blog has helped me to stay in touch with you and our neighborhood on a constant basis. I hope to continue that in coming days, weeks, and (yes) may be years!!

Please stay in touch!


Washington Times Features CP Day

Our (former) NCP blogger Joe Smith wrote a piece in today’s Washington Times featuring College Park Day. Thanks Joe, for doing such a superb job. You’ve made us proud! Here is the link.

Bloggers log off, team up to connect neighbors
By Joseph Smith

Last fall, in a post on my (now defunct) neighborhood blog, I criticized the College Park City Council for its decision to pull the funding for the Taste of College Park.

Like other “Taste of” events across the nation, the TOCP encouraged residents to get off their couches and make the trip downtown, enjoy the fare of local restaurants, peruse the wares of local merchants and enjoy a beer, all within the shadow of our modest city hall.

“We want the people of College Park to come together, don’t we?” I rhetorically asked. “Well, nothing brings folks together like food. So why not hold another TOCP? Or better yet, a cultural festival or similar event that would bring folks from the various communities within College Park together for some food, entertainment, (folk) art, and maybe even some fun.”

As the snarky tone of that excerpt implies, I saw the TOCP as a means to an end. Sure, it was a nice event, but it was also a potential solution to a larger, more significant problem than the reallocation of public funds.

A few weeks before writing that post, I had attended a meeting of my civic association, and, as I sat in the uncomfortable metal chairs, I heard a few attendees make disparaging comments about the immigrant and religious communities that recently had established themselves in the neighborhood. I couldn’t believe my ears.

To improve community relations, I thought, the city should hold an event that encouraged its diverse communities to mix and mingle, and the best way to spread that idea was to ask the readers of my blog to lobby the council and have the TOCP’s funding restored.

Around the same time, Fazlul Kabir, a local activist and member of the city’s Muslim community, was writing on his blog about how “communication gaps between different communities” were among the city’s problems. A possible remedy, he proposed, was “getting ethnic communities more involved in civic activities.”

“Over the past several years, more and more people with diverse backgrounds and ethnicities have moved into our city.” Kabir says. “A community event celebrating the diversity and heritage of our town could help residents get to know each other and improve relations between various groups, such as new and long-time residents, students and permanent residents, and people from different cultures.”

Unbeknownst to us, people were paying attention, and, in March of this year, we each got a call from one of our city council representatives, who asked us to put our proverbial money where our mouths were and attend a meeting about an event like one we were calling for. We jumped at the chance.

The first meeting was small, consisted of only five people — me, Kabir, both of our city council representatives and a city staff member — and was little more than a brainstorming session. By the time it was over, we had agreed upon two things: that an event should take place and that it would be called College Park Day.

Our second meeting was about a month later. This time, there were several more people around the table — more city council members; residents representing neighborhood associations, businesses, churches and organizations; university students; and a staffer from the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission — and we got more accomplished. We picked a date for the event (this Saturday, Oct. 9), identified a location and decided what to have in regard to food, entertainment and exhibitions. The ball officially had started to roll.

That was six months ago, and, as I write this with less than two weeks to go before the big day, I marvel at the incredible amount of energy and effort that the all-volunteer planning committee has put in to make College Park Day a reality. I’m also thankful for the city staff, local officials, public institutions, and private corporations who have so generously donated their funds (about $8,000 so far) and resources. I’m humbled by the way the larger community has encouraged and supported the event.

What amazes me the most, however, is that, through the work of all involved, we already have succeeded at bringing people together who may otherwise not have met, and we’ve shown what can be accomplished when neighbors come together and work toward a common goal.

So, how can you do something similar where you live? I recommend the following, which were vital for me:

1) Get to know your local representatives. In my experience, the people who represent you on your city or town board/council are always interested in talking to motivated, thoughtful residents. Tell them about your concerns for the neighborhood, find out what they’d like to get done in the community and what their challenges are, and (assuming you see eye-to-eye) then let them know you’re available to help change things for the better.

2) Get involved in your community. City/town boards, neighborhood associations, local committees — if these bodies have one thing in common, it’s that they need volunteers to accomplish their missions. By joining them, you can help your city or town cover its bases, learn something about how your locality runs and connect with likeminded folks — people who also want to make things better. If your town is like mine, your city council rep can tell you where the vacancies are. (See No. 1.)

3) Share your ideas. If you have things to say about what’s happening in your neighborhood and like to write, start a blog. They’re free, and you can advertise by word of mouth. However, blogger beware: Having a blog doesn’t give you a license to bitch and moan. You can write passionately, of course, but you have to offer something. If you have a unique perspective, skill set or expertise that’s of use to the community, stay focused on that. It’ll set you apart from the crowd and give readers a reason to keep coming back. If you don’t want to be a blogger, then look for a neighborhood e-mail list or Internet group.

4) Act. If you’ve zeroed in on a problem facing your community and have an idea on how to address it, then share it with your city council member (No. 1), bring it before your neighborhood association or local committee (if applicable, No. 2) and discuss it on your blog (No. 3). If it’s a good idea, and the timing is right, it might just take off.

WAWA Coming Near NCP

In case the big cleanup scenes  just north of College Park on Rhode Island / Rt. 1 make you wonder what’s going on there, here is the story – a WAWA store will soon be built in that parcel of land.

The new WAWA will be located in Beltsville in between Route 1 and Rhode Island avenue, just north of Sunnyside avenue.  The site is across from Chestnut Hills Shopping Center on Route 1. WAWA will have entrances on Route 1 and Rhode Island Avenue.

In fact the news of building a Wawa store in the Beltsville is nothing new. WAWA used to have a branch in downtown College Park which was closed in 2007 (please see the old store picture in the gallery above – it’s the top left one, courtesy of RTCP).

The Beltsville Civic Association had representatives from the proposed WAWA discussing some design changes in its  May 2007 meeting at Beltsville Elementary School.

The Prince George’s County’s June 2005 zoning related documents suggest that WAWA applied for an approval of a special exception for a gas station in the C-S-C Zone. While technical staff denied, the planning board approved the request. The zoning hearing examiner also approved the request with condition.

Reports have it that the WAWA’s special exception request hit another snag, when the nearby Shell gas station filed a lawsuit, which took the past several years to settle.

So far the clearing job has been moving fairly fast. The brushes and small trees that occupied the lot once have been cleared. It’ll be interesting to see how soon the actual store construction starts.


County Primary Elections – How Will You Vote?

The early voting for county’s primary elections has already started and will continue until September 14. We’re wondering how are you planning to vote in these elections. In case you’ve already voted, please also let us know the way you voted.

Our polls cover three positions – County Council District 1, County’s State Attorney and Country Executive positions.


County Council District 1

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County's State Attorney

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County Executive Election

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Faith in Action – School Community Shares Food with Area’s Needy Residents

Full sacks of rice, dozens of pasta packs, bottles of olive oils, dried dates and cereal boxes are only a few food items that pile up on the floor of Al-Huda School‘s basement.

The food items were donated by the school’s community members as part of a Ramadan giving ritual called Zakat-ul-Fitr.  The Al-Huda School is a private Muslim school and thus the school’s community members mostly comprise of Muslim parents living in College Park and its surrounding areas. Established in 1995, Al-Huda School now covers Kindergarten through twelve grade.

Being Muslims, community members  have two celebrations in the year, known as Eid in Arabic, and one of these  Eids is celebrated after Ramadan, the month of fasting. Out of a concern to allow everyone to enjoy the celebration, this is where the Zakat-ul-Fitr comes into play. Amadu Kamara, one of the food drive organizers, comments, “The idea of this is  to share the joy of Eid with others who are less fortunate. It’s a very rewarding experience.”

This specific charity must be paid to the poor before the beginning of the Eid-al-Fitr prayer which is expected to be celebrated late this week. “This year we’ll be giving out to some 130 or more families in need in the Washington Metro areas. They live in all over the place – from Sterling Virginia to upper Baltimore City”, said Adil Faisal, another food drive organizer.

Dozens of the school’s community members spent much of last weekend packing the food boxes and driving them to the houses of needy families. “You must have two things – a car in good running condition and a GPS”– reads an announcement asking for volunteers. The list of these needy families is compiled mostly from their neighbors. To keep privacy of the recipients, the volunteers are only given the addresses of the recipients’ residences and asked to drop the food boxes at their door steps. 

Yesterday afternoon, I followed one group tasked to deliver 8 bags of food to a family living in a Laurel apartment.

“#11 has been delivered” – a text was sent to Faisal, once the bags were dropped at the apartment door.

[Also read: Thank you, Meals on Wheels]

Rent Control Goes in Effect, Finally..

After a few  back and forth battles on the City Hall and the court of law, the City finally got the upper hand over the landlords – to put a brake on how much the homeowners can charge the tenants on the rent they pay.

About a year ago, the City paid a consulting firm called Sage Policy Group to study rent Control in the City’s residential areas. Titled “There Remains a Rational Basis for Rent Stabilzation in College Park“, the group concluded this in its final report “Rental conversion continues, homeownership is falling and rents are on the rise. Research indicates that stable homeownership is associated with numerous societal benefits and that to the extent that homeownership declines, communities are less well-positioned to enjoy those benefits.”

According to the report, the number of houses converted from residential to rental have gone up while the same figure has gone down in the PG county and in the state.

The City acted to get a hold of this. In April, it arranged two public hearings to get feedback from the residents. Later it voted down a plan to lift the rent control. Though the City passed the rent stabilation legislation in 2005, it never enforced those plans. A lawsuit by landlords against the City was holding off the City to take firm action on this legislation. In December 2008, a Prince George’s County Circuit Court ruling rejected the lawsuit by the landlords. But the landlords appealed the ruling.

Late last month, the court upheld the claims that the ordinance unfairly penalized them while placing no such restrictions on owners of student high-rises that, in many cases, charge more than the landlords.

This finally clears the City to go ahead in enforcing the law. The City is now searching for volunteers who can be part of 8 members rent stabilization board.


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