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Prince George’s Co. Residents Share Concerns in ‘Listening Session’

Joseph Sanford of Bowie, Maryland, stood up to the microphone at a community meeting and calmly requested county and state officials provide more turf fields.

Sanford, 11, said artificial turf wouldn’t need the constant maintenance that must be provided for natural grass. Plus, he believes a synthetic surface is safer to play on.

“With more turf fields, youth sports could continue throughout the year,” said the sixth-grade soccer player, who’s broken his ankle four times on grassy fields. “People can get daily exercise and the fields won’t need maintenance.”

Joseph and 39 others spoke Monday, Nov. 9 at the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission Parks and Recreation building in Riverdale.

The nearly two-hour meeting themed as a “listening session” was hosted by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III that allowed residents to comment on matters important to them. The information will be used to organize county priorities on the state level when the legislative session in Annapolis begins in January.

Before the meeting, county officials from agencies such as the health, housing and police departments stood at tables in the lobby area to provide residents with updated information on various county-related topics and programs.

When the meeting began, those residents who addressed Baker, two county councilwomen and two state officials spoke on a myriad of topics.

Aaron Marcavitch, executive director for Maryland Milestones/Anacostia Trails Heritage Area Inc. of Hyattsville, asked county officials to hire a “bike czar.” That person, he said, would help outline the 30 miles of bike trails in the northern part of the county and help increase tourism.

Dan Smith with the Anacostia Watershed Society requested the county do more work on protecting the environment by banning plastic bags and support bottle deposit legislation to increase efforts on recycling.

Several visually impaired residents spoke about concerns with public transportation.

Dana Hinnant, president of the National Federation of the Blind’s health division in the District, said Metro Access bus service hours should be extended on weekdays and available throughout the county on the weekends.

In addition, she said cab companies don’t accept certain vouchers used by legally blind commuters.

“The things we have in place are not adequate. That’s not convenient for us,” said Hinnant, co-owner of Exquisite Natural by Design of Temple Hills. “Surely, Prince George’s County can have better transportation for people with disabilities. If you’re able to get anywhere you want to go, then we should have the right to do the same.”

More passionate pleas to officials came from residents who wore white shirts and purple stickers that read “SAVE LAUREL HOSPITAL.”

Dimensions Healthcare System of Cheverly plans to cut services at Laurel Regional Hospital and make it a $24 million ambulatory care center. Dimensions also has a proposal to build a $651 million state-of-the-art regional medical complex in Largo currently under state review.

Bernadine Karns of Calverton said the hospital in Laurel must remain intact because of the new housing developments coming to the area.

Karen Coakley of Beltsville, who wore the purple sticker but a black shirt, spoke more bluntly.

“I’m in mourning because I cannot believe the northern part of the county is going to lose a hospital,” she said. “You are going to stiff the northern part of the county with zip, zilch, zero, nada. Get rid of Dimensions. Do not leave the Laurel-Beltsville region with no hospital.”

Residents who couldn’t attend the meeting in Riverdale can attend a public hearing Monday, Nov. 16 at the Sports and Learning Complex in Landover with members of the county’s House Delegation.

“We heard a lot of issues (Nov. 9) that people care about. We have some to do work,” state Delegate Alonzo Washington (D-District 22) of Hyattsville said after the meeting. “We are going to hear several more issues (Nov. 16). Residents can come out and hear what’s going on.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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