Celebrating the ‘city’s lungs’ at Magruder Park

Dozens of children participated in fun activities during the Protect Hyattsville Parks celebration at Magruder Park on Oct. 19. Photo courtesy of Kerry-Ann Hamilton.

By KERRY-ANN HAMILTON — Protect Hyattsville Parks (PHP), a group founded last spring, hosted a community celebration on Oct. 19 to mark the successful end of a campaign to save the 32-acre park from development efforts.

Organizers of the celebration opposed relocating Hyattsville Middle School (HMS) to Magruder Park or the adjacent forest lands. The group launched a Change.org petition which garnered nearly 1300 signatures.

Brilliant blue skies and fall foliage provided the backdrop for the event, which included bird watching, plant walks through the forest, games and musical performances. The program started with a children’s rendition of Woody Gutherie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

During the HMS relocation controversy, PHP organizers maintained, “Schools versus parks is a false choice for our community,” said petition organizer Gautam Bastian. “We support the rebuilding of the aging Hyattsville Middle School and also want to keep Magruder Park. Our community deserves both.” The Prince George’s County Public School System ultimately decided to rebuild HMS on its current site

“Today, we are here to celebrate and enjoy what we fought so hard to protect,” Bastian added. Addressing more than 50 residents who attended the event, he thanked everyone for their time and support of the “Magruder movement.” 

Gautam Bastian addresses attendees during the Protect Hyattsville Parks celebration on Oct. 19. Photo courtesy of Kerry-Ann Hamilton.

Bastian told the Hyattsville Life & Times that even though HMS will not be rebuilt in Magruder Park, PHP’s’ work is not complete: “There will be ongoing threats to our green spaces,” he said. “As citizens and members of PHP, we want to continue to cultivate community engagement and give voice to the users of Magruder Park and all our city parks.”

Some residents, including Theresa Goedeke and her brother, had gone door-to-door with flyers about the proposed plans to develop the park, while others wrote letters and made a video about the movement.

Magruder is home to scores of native plants and features gateways to the Northwest Branch Trail along the Anacostia River.

“Magruder is the city’s lungs, and we must protect it,” said David Ruppert, a soil scientist and assistant clinical professor at the University of Maryland. While pointing to a topographic map of the city, Ruppert added, “We have very little green space left in our city that can serve as a food source for birds, insects and other animals that inhabit the park.”

Brandon Robinson, 13, from nearby Mount Rainier participated in the day’s festivities, including the plant identification walk with City Arborist Dawn Taft.

City Arborist Dawn Taft leads plant walk during Protect Hyattsville Park celebration on Oct. 19. Photo courtesy of Kerry-Ann Hamilton.

“I prefer to be in nature than playing my video games all day,” Robinson said, in between football throws with friends. “In the summer, I love when the ice cream truck comes by, and I can buy treats.”

The PHP group wants to shift its focus from protection to preservation. “We will need to regroup and determine what the needs are and how we can support the health of our parks,” said Bastian.

During the celebration, Taft encouraged residents to join the city for non-native invasive plant removal workdays. “We want more community involvement, and volunteers are always welcome,” she said. “If [invasive plants are] left unchecked, we run the risk of losing our native plants, which are vital to our ecosystem.”

For more information on ways to volunteer with the City of Hyattsville, call 301.985.5057 or email caistis@hyattsville.org.

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