Managing the Spiritual Neighborhood
How to Restore the Conscience of America's Communities; A Grass Roots Approach
Westchester, Camp Springs, Prince George's, Greater Washington

Camp Springs is a suburban population center of roughly 15,000 people in the southern part of Prince George's County Maryland, about eight miles from the U.S. Capital. Mainly residential, it is divided into quadrants by the intersection of Allentown Road and Branch Avenue. The northeast quadrant has a Suitland zip code (20746). The northwest and southwest belong to the Temple Hills or Ft. Washington post office (20748, 20744). The southeast quadrant is taken up almost entirely by Andrews Air Force Base (formerly Camp Springs Army Air Field). Apart from the base, the most notable landmark is Bells Church, a 200-year-old United Methodist congregation at the intersection of Allentown and Branch Ave. The Westchester subdivision of is south of Allentown Road, 1/2 mile east of Padgett's Corner. There are 551 homes in Westchester, or about 1/10 of the total for Camp Springs.

Click for a profile of Camp Springs ...  Camp Springs Profile
Click for a guide to buying homes in Camp Springs ...Home-buyers Guide
Camp Springs crime report ...  Crime in Camp Springs
Does Camp Springs have a heart? Click ...  Ignoring the homeless in Camp Springs
A look inside public schools. Click ...  High school chaos.

Map of Camp Springs
Click for Larger Map

The webmaster has not been living in Camp Springs for some time and it's no longer practical for him to keep the information on this page up to date. If there are any local residents or internet site managers in southern Prince George's would like to take over the upkeep of this page, please contact Al Gabis at the following e-mail address: tinkerscreekpress "at" yahoo "dot" com

 

Local Resources

Below are listed some miscellaneous resources that may be of use to residents of Westchester, Camp Springs and Southern Prince George's County. It includes some of the local shops and tradesmen that have earned favorable reports from neighbors. The list is by no means comprehensive. If you know of a shop, merchant, tradesman, etc., that is worth recommending, please let the webmaster know and we'll include it. Note that the list is not strictly local. Alexandria and Northern Virginia are right across the river, Waldorf is a short trip down Route 5, and Washington DC itself is quite reachable, particularly now Metro's green line to Branch Avenue has opened. Note also that this site has no

 
Photo copyright 2005 by Alexander Gabis
Click image for slide show
Bells Church .. click image for more Camp Springs slides

commercial sponsors. Nor have the companies, merchants, etc. that are mentioned given their approval or endorsement for this site, or for the listing of their products. The list is provided strictly as an informational service to you, the reader.

Auto Repair

  • Dave's CSE Automotive, 6306H Old Branch Ave., Camp Springs, 301-449-0417
    Dave Ditrick is impeccably honest. He won't take your car unless the repair is something he knows he can fix. His prices are very reasonable..
  • Forestville Amoco, 7614 Marlboro Pike, Forestville, 301-420-2455, Ask for Robbie.
    Top notch garage. One of the few in our area that was favorably reviewed in the Mechanic-X-files at cartalk.cars.com. They got my old Dodge Mirada running after I had messed up the carburetor.
  • Branch Auto Electric, 3200 Branch Ave., Hillcrest Hts., 301-894-3118
    On the right side near the skating rink just before Southern Avenue going toward the District. I haven't used them myself, but some other people have mentioned that they do good work. Also mentioned in the Mechanic-X-files.
  • Dick's Auto Service, Aaron Lane, Clinton, 301-868-3113
    This outfit got high praise from Charlie T. He calls them the best shop he's dealt with.
  • Autoworks, Beltsville, 301-595-0900
    It's a bit out of the way for us, in an industrial park off Route 1, but I know folks who swear by this place.
  • Tommy's Auto Body, Kirby Road, Clinton, 301-449-5277, www.tommysautobody.us
    Great body shop. Friendly, professional service at very reasonable prices. These guys are good.

Bicycle Shop

  • College Park Bicycles, 4360 Knox Road, College Park, 301-864-2211 www.bike123.com. Shop has been in business for a very long time - decades. Same owner also has a shop in Mt. Airy.
  • Spokes Etc., 1506 Belle View Blvd., Alexandria, VA 22307, 703.765.8005 www.spokesetc.com. In the Belle View shopping plaza. Closest bike shop to Camp Springs. Recommended by folks in the dc.biking newsgroup. Other locations on Quaker Lane and Maple Ave., Vienna.

Plumbers, HVAC

All of these folks are pros. They are local, and have been in business for a number of years.

  • R.V. Upperman Sons, Inc. 301-894-3551
  • B. McCall, Clinton 301-868-7080.
  • James Price Plumbing, 301-702-1798, 24 Hour Service, Recommended by Sally L. of Camp Springs .

Heating and Air Conditioning

  • Compton, 7916 Old Branch, 301-856-2200 ... heating and AC. Solved the problem with my "booming" gas furnace.
  • Dick's Air Conditioning & Heating, 7603 Allentown Rd., 301-248-6000

Electricians

  • B. Electrical Service, 301-888-1509 ... Got this name some time ago, but have never actually used them. I believe they're out of Waldorf
  • SIMCO Electric, , Gregory Simmons. 301-423-6396  Electrical contractor in Prince Georges County. Recommended by Gale A. - Did work for her condo association for 7 years. Specializes in fuse box replacements, ceiling fans and security lights.

Carpentry, Home Improvement

  • Need recommendations

Painting and Drywall

  • Hoyer Enterprises. 703-799-4326. Out of Mechanicsville, St. Mary's, but they do work in our area. (The Virginia phone number is an answering service.) Highly professional work. They do give written estimates.

Cement and Brick Work

  • Jose Lima. 301-864-3574. Good work, reasonable prices. Recommended by neighbors.

Waterproofing

  • Kopper's Quality Waterproofing. 301-324-4797. Capital Heights. Installed a 30 foot "polymeric flow channel system" in my neighbor's house for $1760 in 2000. System worked well to protect his house from recent heavy snow and rain that would have otherwise flooded his basement. These are the folks to call if you have a recurring problem with ground water seeping in around your foundation.

Roofing Contractors

  • Boones Roofing. 301-292-1333 Outfit out of White Plains highly recommended by Jackie B. Also do gutters and shingles. In business for 35 years.

Hauling, Odd Jobs

  • Need recommendations

Hardware, Lumber

  • Clinton True Value, 9005 Woodyard Rd, Clinton, 301-868-2233 ... They have everything from paint to tools to garden supplies. A locally-owned alternative to the Home Depots and the Lowes. www.clintonhardware.doitbest.com
  • Fischer Hardware, Backlick Road, Springfield, Virginia, 703-451-3700 ... If you can't find it anywhere else, check with Fischers. Very knowledgeable staff can answer questions about almost any home repair project.

Locksmith

  • Brooks Lock & Key, Walker Mill Road, Capital Heights ... 301-420-7307 ... call for mobile service or walk in to have keys made on the premises.

Arts and Crafts Supplies

  • Pearl Discount Crafts, Telegraph Road, Alexandria, 703-960-3900 ... Near the Huntington Metro station. The best art and craft supply store in the area.

Signs

  • Waldorf Signs ... 301-645-3868. Custom made signs at very reasonable prices.

Fabric Stores

  • Discount Fabrics ... 108 N. Carroll St., Thurmont, Maryland ... 301-271-2266. This place is 80 miles from Camp Springs, off Route 15 north of Frederick, but it's worth the trip if you're looking to buy a quantity of material for drapes or upholstery. This is quite a unique store. Actually, it doesn't so much resemble a store, as it does a warehouse. Huge selection of fabric on rolls stacked up to the roof. I was able to find 23 yards of drapery material I liked for $6.00/yard.

Carpet Installation

  • Rafael Cazzol ... 703-914-1481, 202-497-4852 ... The guy is very good, a real pro, and his pricing is rock-bottom. Did a great job with my basement carpet. You won't find a better deal.

Furniture, Antiques

  • Thieves Market ... 8101 Richmond Hwy., Alexandria ... 703-360-4200 ... A dozen or so dealers. Mostly furniture. Neat place to browse. Not the cheapest place, but you won't get ripped off, despite what the name says.
    The Thieves Market is still there, but under a new name ... something like "Mount Vernon Antique Center".
  • Gerstel ... 301-927-2215 ... 4511A Rhode Island Ave, Brentwood ... If you're looking for a computer table, filing cabinet, desk or any kind of office furniture, this place has the best bargains. Everything is second hand, but the merchandise cleans up quite well. I purchased a used computer chair - a swivel rocker on wheels - for $15, dusted if off and it looks like new. I believe these folks bought out the furniture guy who used to be up on Route 1 north of College Park. They also have a store in Virginia, but the Brentwood showroom has the lowest prices. The only way to get a better price on used furniture is to go to yard sales in Northern Virginia. But if you need something right away, visit Gerstel.

Landscaping, Lawns

  • Ken Steward, 301-589-3199 .. Ken will prune your trees, plant your shrubs, and quote you a scripture or two. A good guy. Lives in Takoma Park, but has done work for several Westchester residents in the past.
  • Moe Goldfarb, 301-856-3437 ... Lawns and shrubs. Does Mrs. M.'s yard on Lansing.

Tree Service

  • Moran's, Accokeek, 301-283-6565 ... Have taken down two trees, and limbed-up a third in my yard. Many years experience in the tree business. Reasonable prices. ... www.moranstree.com

Plants, Nurseries

  • Roozen Nursery, 8009 Allentown Rd., Ft. Washington, 301-248-2500 ... Annuals, perennials, bulbs, shrubs, trees, landscaping materials. The best selection of spring bulbs, imported from Holland. Roozens seems to have grown more ecologically sensitive over the years, though they still do carry the full array of synthetic pesticides and herbicides.
  • Plant City, Old Branch Ave., Camp Springs, 301-423-3662 ... Seasonal. Flowers, plants, mulch, firewood. Good selection of annuals at low prices. Often have annuals for sale late into the season. I buy the Rappahanock pine bark mulch from these folks in 3 cu.ft. bags.

Doctors, General Practitioner

  • Dr. Richard A. Farson, 12825 Old Fort Rd, Fort Washington, 301-292-4440 ... recommended by Jay O.

Doctors, Pediatric

  • Need recommendations

Dentists

  • Arthur Fridley, DDS, 4400 Stamp Rd., Marlow Hts., 301-899-6366 ... Office hours are Monday to Thursday
  • Allentown Family Dental, Drs. Good and Gately, Woodyard Road, Clinton, 301-868-6200

Ophthalmologists, Optometrists

  • Need recommendations

Lawyers

  • Don Noble, Noble & Lipstein 7801 Old Branch Ave. Clinton, 301-868-8950
  • Martha Saenz, Potomac 301-983-1197; A rare lawyer with a heart. Specializes in immigration.

Produce, Groceries, Markets

Skip the Safeway and buy your groceries at these smaller markets; support local business and local growers. (See also Agriculture links for market baskets from CSA co-op farms)

  • Earthfood Farms ... 6321 Curtis Rd., Upper Marlboro, 202-801-7293 ... Che Axum, agronomist. Organic produce.
  • Biggs Farm ... farm and farm-stand at the corner of Brinkley & Allentown Rd, Camp Springs ... Family has been in business for 80 years. In addition to their acreage here, Biggs has a larger plot in La Plata. They regularly take their produce to Old Town for the Alexandria farmer's market on Saturday morning. Also carry annuals, vegetable flats for planting, firewood, hay.
  • Miller Farms, Piscataway Rd., Clinton ... 301-297-9370 ... farm and farm-stand ... produce, flowers, feed, hay, mulch, firewood ... pick-your-own strawberries, greens, tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans .. also has a booth at the new flea market across from Andrews. Call them to find out with the pick-your-own season is starting.
  • Cherry Hill Farm, Gallahan Rd., Fort Washington ... farm-stand, pick-your-own strawberries, peaches in season. Also a bakery with cakes, pies and donuts baked on the premises.
  • Farmer's Market ... Prince George's Plaza parking lot, 3500 East-West Hwy., Hyattsville ... Producer only. Baked goods, strawberries, greens, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, bedding plants, herbs, jelly, honey, jams, apples, pears; Tuesdays, 2:00 to 6:00, weekly from May to mid-November (301-627-0977).
  • Adel's International Foods, Old Branch Ave., Storefront next to the Camp Springs Market. African, Caribbean and Hispanic foods - including fresh produce, canned, dried and pickled items.
  • Nick's Deli, 7601 Old Branch Ave., Clinton ... 301-868-7100 ... For meat eaters, this is the only true butcher shop in the area. Nick makes his own sausage.
  • Catoctin Mountain Orchard, U.S. Route 15, Thurmont ... 301-271-2737 ... Neat roadside orchard and farmstand just north of Thurmont. They sell only what they grow themselves: plums, peaches, apples, grapes, pumpkins, squash, cantaloupes, nectarines, pears, peppers, cabbage, kale, tomatoes. Drive out there around the 1st week of November, take in the fall foliage and come home with a bushel of apples. www.catoctinmtorchard.com
  • Apple Jack, Fort Washington, If you want locally grown apples, but would rather not drive 80 miles to Thurmont to get them, check with Jack Bartley. "Apple Jack" as they call him, has been selling apples out of his garage for 16 years. A bushel of Staymans, Yorks, Red or Golden Delicious will run you $15. Smaller apples for juicing are just $10 a bushel. Jack makes periodic trips out to West Virginia to replenish his stock during the apple growing season, which runs until about the third week of December. He lives at 2203 Brown's Lane, off Bock Road in Fort Washington. I can give you his phone number if you send an Email.

Restaurants

  • Regina Pizzeria, 6339 Allentown Road, Camp Springs, 301-449-6785. Excellent lunch buffet. Nice, bright dining room.
  • Everlasting Life, 9185 Central Avenue, Capitol Hts., 301-324-6900 .. vegan restaurant and catering

Bakery

  • Desserts by Gerard, 6341 Oxon Hill Rd., Oxon Hill, 301-839-2185 ... The only true pastry shop in our area. Superb French cakes, tortes, pastries, scones, croissants, mousse cups, desserts. Call on Friday to order fresh bread from the Firehook bakery in Alexandria, delivered to Gerard's on Saturday morning. A gem of a shop in the otherwise hideously ugly Oxon Hill shopping plaza (next to the now-closed Salvation Army store).

Catering

  • Pineapple Alley ... Clinton.
  • Everlasting Life, 9185 Central Ave., Capital Hts., 301-324-6900 www.EverlastingLife.net ... Soul vegetarian restaurant and catering. In the Home Depot plaza on Central Avenue, just inside the Beltway. This may be the only purely vegan restaurant in Southern Prince George's. Hot and cold dishes are served cafeteria style. Pleasant atmosphere. Nice change of pace from your typical chicken & ribs lunch counters.

Herbs, Organic Produce, Natural Foods, Spices

  • L.D. Green Grocer, Pen Mar Shopping Center, Forestville, across from J.C. Penny ... The nearest thing we have to a health food store in southern P.G. County. Fresh produce, groceries, herbs, herbal remedies, food supplements. They also have a store in Alexandria, about a mile and a half outside the beltway, in the plaza with Shopper's Food Warehouse at the intersection of Rt. 1 and N. King's Highway.
  • Cash Grocer, Duke Street, Alexandria ... The closest store to Camp Springs for organic produce, but you have to cross the river to get to it.
  • Whole Foods Market (Fresh Fields), Little River Turnpike at Braddock Road, Annandale ... Of all the Whole Foods/Fresh Fields in the area, the Annandale store is probably the easiest to reach, at least by car but don't go during rush hour). A new one opened up in downtown DC that might be easier to get to by Metro. Fresh Fields does have a selection of organically grown produce, but not nearly as much as My Organic Market. Decent organic greens. Good selection of fruit (including West Virginia Mountaineeer apples), cheeses, grains. Breads are okay. Deli and bakery dishes are expensive.
  • Smile Herbs, Berwyn Road, College Park ... 301-474-8791 ... A unique shop that specializes in herbs, but a bit out of the way for us.
  • My Organic Market, 9827 Rhode Island Ave., College Park ... 301-220-1100 ... A newly opened MOM's in the REI shopping plaza near the corner of Edgewood Rd. (The original is in Rockville). Excellent produce and grains. All organic. Beats Whole Foods on prices, and it's not a chain. Not in the most accessible location, however. Traffic on Route 1 can be a nightmare. Looks to be within walking distance of the Greenbelt Metro stop. Note that there's another MOM's up on Mt. Vernon Avenue in Alexandria that may actually be easier to get to from Camp Springs. It's at the intersection of Russell Road, a couple of blocks from the Birchmere. Great selection of organic produce at the best price.
  • Glut Food Co-op, 34th Street, Mt. Ranier ... Some herbs and organic produce. A down-home store in an interesting neighborhood. Shop seems a bit disorganized. As the crow flies it's not that far, but it seems you really have to go around the world to get there. It's much easier to cross over to Virginia if the traffic is right.

Schools

  • Henson Valley Montessori School, Allentown Road, 7007 Allentown Road, 301-449-4442 ... This school is unique in south county. The Montessori method relies on specially trained teachers ("directors"), a carefully prepared learning environment, and special Montessori materials. Other than the yearly SAT, there are no tests and no grades. The "normalized" student self-constructs in this environment with the ultimate aim of developing his or her cosmic vocation. Parents enroll their kids in the Primary program starting at age 2 1/2 or 3, and they continue until age 11. Henson Valley is also opening a Montessori middle-school in the fall of 2001 www.hvms.org

Programs for Youth

  • Maryland Suburban Swim Club, (formerly Allentown Road Aquatic Club), 301-236-9343 ... coached by Charlie Taylor at the new Sports Complex next to Redskins Stadium in Landover ... If you want your kid to have some extracurricular fitness activity, there is no better program than this. Charlie Taylor is a master coach, with more than 25 years experience in swimming programs, most of it at the Allentown Recreation Center in Camp Springs. Charlie IS swimming in south county. More than just a coach, Charlie is a teacher, a counselor, and a highly spiritual, natural-born yogi - a specialist in mind-body development. (See the article on Taylor in the December '99 Westchester Watch newsletter.) MSSC is the union of the ARAC club with the Fairland club in Laurel. It has developmental as well as competitive training for swimmers. Kids participate in local and regional meets sanctioned by the U.S. Swimming organization (the group that produces our Olympic swimmers.)
    www.mssc-inc.com
    Charlie Taylor quit coaching this club a while back. The last I knew, he was continuing to coach the swim team at the Temple Hills Swim Club (301-894-1875) during the summer, while working for local developer Leo Bruso (Land and Commercial, Inc.).

Libraries

  • Prince George's Public Library – Branches across from Rivertown Commons in Oxon Hill, and in Clinton on Piscataway Road. Both are accessible by public transportation. Collections aren't anything to write home about. Interlibrary loan is expensive and very slow. Internet terminals are okay, but you have to stand when using the ones in Oxon Hill. Ugly landscape around the Oxon Hill branch adds to the generally dilapidated appearance. Looks like they finally finished fixing the leaky roof at the Surrattsville Branch. Seems like it was under repair forever. (At the taxpayers expense, no doubt.) Now they're in the process of renovating the Oxon Hill Branch. We'll see how many years that takes. Check out the Infotrac on-line databases, (www.prge.lib.md.us/ref/comdata.html) accessible with your Internet browser. Enter your library card barcode to access: full text of articles from hundreds of magazines and newspapers (including the Washington Post), plus, business directory, nationwide phone directories and more.
    Dial-up catalog and Maryland Sailor: 301-925-2400 (8 data bits, 1 stop bit, no parity)
    Note that Sailor provides free worldwide web access with its text-based browser, "Lynx". You can also access the Infotrac databases (with a library card.) Check out the Gutenberg Project: transcribing books to electronic format.
    On-line catalog: www.prge.lib.md.us/index.html. Sailor is one of the best bargains out there for your taxpayer dollar.
  • Fairfax County Public Library – Fine facilities, great collection. Prince George's residents can establish an account and borrow books from any branch. Only difference is that interlibrary loan is free for Fairfax residents, but not for us. Fairfax offers on-line, card holder access to a similar collection of databases. (Wash. Post archives back to 1986, vs. 1998 for P.G.) Closest branch is Martha Washington, on Fort Hunt Road in the Mt. Vernon area of Alexandria. Next closest is Sherwood Regional at 2501 Sherwood Hall Lane, also in Mount Vernon. Note that upstairs at Sherwood there is a "Tech Lab" with 18 Internet terminals, in addition to the 5 downstairs. Upstairs terminals also allow word processing. Workstations are available to the public in the evenings from 6:30 to 8:30, and on weekends 1:00 to 5:00.
    Dial-up catalog: 703-802-7447. At the MP EXL prompt enter "HELLO DIALUP.PUBLIC
    On-line catalog: www.co.fairfax.va.us/library/
  • Arlington Public Library – If you can't find a book in P.G. or Fairfax, try Arlington. Central Library on N. Quincy Street, near Ballston, is the main branch. It's open late Sunday through Thursday. Arlington does issue library cards to Prince George's residents.
    On-line catalog: www.co.arlington.va.us/lib

    (If you're wondering about the University of Maryland library system out in College Park, forget it. Prince George's residents aren't allowed to borrow materials.)

Civic Groups and Contacts

  • Prince George's Civic Federation ... Earle L. White, President, nacohhssorg@aol.com ... 301-731-4885 ... This is an umbrella group with at-large memberships and representatives from individual civic associations countywide. They are very much concerned with development and zoning issues. Members regularly attend hearings and public forums to voice citizen concerns. You get the idea that without such input, the developers would be in total control of the legislative process. This organization has existed since 1928, but participation has waned in recent years. Why? Meetings are held at the Hyattsville Municipal City Office Building, 8:00 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month.
  • Camp Springs Civic Association ... Beverly Taylor, President, PO Box 1071, Camp Springs, MD 20757 ... The CSCA is concerned above all else with the quality of life in Camp Springs. They try hard to be nonpartisan. They are the only folks who put up a fight when sleazy nightclubs try to open in the area. They were able to get the infamous "Bumpers" disco shut down; the bring-your-own-booze place where teens would go to get crazy till some ungodly hour of the morning, and where there were a number of violent incidents and altercations, including fights, shootings and stabbings. They don't always win, unfortunately, as evidenced by the new Dancers strip joint that opened up on Old Branch Ave. last year. (Email me and I'll tell you who owns it. You might be surprised.) The CSCA cleans up roads, volunteers at schools, and acts as an interface to the county bureaucracy, exerting the "bottom-up" pressure that is essential to keeping the government responsive. It is about as close to a true grass-roots community group (non-church) as you can get around here. The only way to get closer to the grass-roots is to do what we're doing in Westchester Estates and organize a neighborhood-level, Garden Zone watch group.
  • Auth Village Civic Association ... Meets at St. Philip the Apostle Church on Henderson Way. New president is Phil Eppard (Email: authvillagecivic@yahoo.com). Group is very active on quality-of-life issues (e.g., the prostitution that's been going on in the area of Motel 6) in the Auth Road corridor. They are also big on the "Camp Springs Town Center" development project (mixed-use zoning approved - including apartments) at the Branch Avenue Metro Station. They've had spokespersons for the developer give presentations at their meetings.

On-line Resources
(For other Camp Springs and Prince George's web links see the tables on the Community, Outreach, Agriculture, etc. resource pages.)

  • Community Ministry of Prince George's County ...www.cmpgc.org .. 301-499-2319. This site is partially down right now, but when it comes back up, check out the "Answer Center". It's a unique search engine that provides a local source for assistance in areas such as emergency and support services; shelters; child care, youth, clothing, disabled, crisis intervention, domestic violence, employment, food, help for immigrants, housing, legal aid, mental health, substance abuse, transportation, links to government agencies, and more. The service is congregation-based, meaning that local churches (and yours is undoubtedly on the list) provide the assistance. It's an interfaith operation. In the Camp Springs area, churches belong to the Andrews-Camp Springs-Temple Hills ("ACT") Cluster. Meetings are held at Bethany Christian Church, coordinated by Rev. Bob Degges. (301-248-4600)
  • BrandywineMd ... www.brandywinemd.com ... Best site I've found that focuses on South County. Lots of links; businesses, organizations, churches, services, statistics, history, map, news, voting and election info, archive, site sponsors;
  • PGNow ... www.PGNow.com ... Serves Prince George's; schools, government, entertainment, sports, traffic & travel; Maintained by CSP Media
  • WETA CapAccess ... www.capaccess.org ... Public Broadcasting's community web site for greater Washington. Arts, business, news, science, sports, community center, education center, government center, library center, media center, social services center. Started 10 years ago as a public access Internet on-ramp with Email accounts. Connection was made with a terminal emulator (Dial-up: 703-671-9382). Lynx browser allowed text-based web surfing. Emacs used for editing. Kermit and X/Y/ZModem for downloading. You even got a small amount of disk space to store files. It was great because it was free! Now they are moving to a new system that runs the "FirstClass" mail program. It's the same as is used in Montgomery County Schools. FirstClass has DOS, Windows and Mac clients (i.e.., user applications), and can even be accessed over the web using any browser (including Lynx): fc.capaccess.org.. From home dial into the new system directly at 703-671-0383. FirstClass also has live chat, address books, resumes and discussion forums, (no telnet, however.) Lots of useful and interesting postings appear in forums from a group of well-informed CapAccess regulars.
  • Washington Post ... http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/metro/md/princegeorges ... Washington Post Prince George's Extra; The Post has lots of useful links and information, but with it you have to suffer an equal amount of slow-loading commercial advertising. Weekly crime reports broken down by district are skimpy on detail, but at least give you an idea of what has been going on. Note: It's easier and faster to read the Post on-line using the text-based browser, "Lynx", of the Maryland Library's "Sailor" system (Dial-up from P.G.: 301-925-2400, 8 data bits 1 stop bit, no parity). You will need a decent terminal emulator like ProComm Plus in order to capture articles to your hard drive.
  • Prince George's Journal ... http://cold.jrnl.com/cfdocs/new/pg ... Not so many commercials as the Post. Archive search works well and is free.

Computer Repair and Sales


Profile of the Camp Springs Garden Zone

The topography of Camp Springs, Maryland is typical of the suburban American landscape – shopping plazas, streets and highways, schools, churches, a government building or two. The residential subdivisions are solidly middle to upper-middle class in construction and appearance: brick, single family homes, on 1/3 to 1/2 acre lots, built mostly during the 60s. Some of these subdivisions are very green and quite attractive, and the community derives much of its appeal from the neighborhoods. From a global perspective, Camp Springs is clearly way up near the top in terms of the standard of living of its residents. Of course, beneath the facade of suburban comfort Camp Springs has exactly the same problems that are ubiquitous in every American community: isolated, uninvolved residents, an undercurrent of fear and mistrust, government that operates from a reactive mindset, a fractured, polluted ecology, a population that is spiritually disconnected from the earth that supports them, and so forth.

Bias towards development

Like everyone else, people in Camp Springs take for granted such things as bulletproof glass in banks, security cameras in supermarkets, police in public schools, alarms on your house, your car, your tool shed, etc. (Not surprisingly, the level of crime in this area mirrors the level of security. No one wants to talk about the crime problem, however. It's not politically correct. See the "Camp Springs Paradox" crime report.) Camp Springs, and the municipality that contains it, Prince George's County, are not nearly as built-up as some of the neighboring counties in suburban Maryland and Virginia, but they sure would like to be. The county government is distinctly biased in favor of development. They want stores. They want industry. They want stadiums, malls, and theme parks. They want wider roads and more of them in order to accommodate the affluent two, three and four car, commuting families that make up much of the population. Like most Americans, they've been brainwashed into believing that "class" consists of driving a Mercedes, shopping at Nordstrom, and playing golf at a country club. It's no surprise that the County Executive Wayne Curry was a lawyer for developers, and his predecessor, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, has a background in urban planning.

You can read about the Prince George's planning department's grand vision for the future - their "General Plan" - on-line at www.princegeorgesfuture.com. The entire focus of the plan is on development, development and more development. All of Camp Springs is located smack in the middle of the "developing tier": a wide swath of territory that extends the entire length of the county from north to south. What's sad is that the traditional character of Prince George's has been totally lost. In the span of two or three decades, the county has been transformed from a quiet, fairly rural, fairly green, agricultural and farming area to a noisy, congested, asphalt melange of highways and crappy strip-malls. And they're not through with us yet. The residential neighborhoods offer some degree of refuge, but the moment you exit to the main drag, it becomes clear that your "home town" is very much a part of the so-called "urban planet."

No extremes of climate - two growing seasons

People not only take crime for granted in this area, they also take for granted things that they should in fact be thankful for. For one thing, a nearly perfect climate, with mild winters, and long, comfortable spring and fall seasons. The summers are humid, but not all that severe. For example, the year 2002 was relatively hot for this area, yet I've only run the air conditioner for a total of 36 days. It wasn't turned on until June 24th, and it looks like it won't be on after August 23th. In 2001 the AC was on for 29 days, between June 13 and August 18. Looking back at the garden logs I can tell you that over the last 10 years the AC was on for an average of 27 days. If I didn't have to accommodate my boarders, I could probably get away without air conditioning at all. That's because the house is nicely shaded by some large trees – trees that do well with the rainfall we receive in this region -a fairly dependable 40 inches on average. Though there have been some dry spells, there has never been a prolonged, serious drought since I've lived here. (Note, however, that the past year has indeed been quite dry in this area. Farmers have certainly felt the effect.) Prince Georgians never have any water shortages to speak of, because our drinking water comes from the Potomac River, which is pretty much limitless in its supply. We don't have extremes of anything in southern Maryland. No earthquakes, no hurricanes. Tornados are very rare. Thunderstorms are about the most violent phenomenon we experience. In Camp Springs, we typically have our last frost in the first week of April, and the earliest first frost doesn't come until the end of October. This provides us with a nice, long growing season. You really have two seasons to work with: spring/summer, and summer/fall.

Abundant water but bad air

The water supply is quite clean, and very drinkable, thanks to the WSSC, though in my household we do still use a purifying filter. You can't be quite as happy about our air quality, however. You would think that the air would be better than average, as we're located far enough away from the city to avoid the brunt of the vehicle emissions. Westchester Estates is about two miles outside the Beltway, a location that ought to reduce our exposure to the fumes and particulate matter from car exhaust. However, the air here can be downright bad, especially in the summer. The American Lung Association gave Prince George's an 'F' rating for its air quality, along with pretty much every other county in the Washington-Baltimore region. The reason: ozone pollution, which is a problem during the hot months. We're not alone, however, as there are 400 counties nationwide, containing 141 million people, that were also rated 'F'. Baltimore-Washington came up as the 7th worst area in the country for air pollution. (See the report on the Lung Association web site: http://www.lungusa.org/press/envir/sota2001_release.html.)

Noise pollution increasing

Regarding noise pollution, your distance from the Beltway will determine how much traffic noise you hear. In Westchester Estates, the 1 1/2 to 2 mile distance helps to buffer us from the 24-hour-a-day roar. Andrews Air Force Base is close by, but fortunately the takeoff pattern does not go over Camp Springs. Forestville and Clinton are much more affected that we are. The only time we really hear aircraft noise is during air shows and when the President flies in with his three helicopters. (Also occasionally when big jets are parked doing "run-ups".) Actually, the air traffic from National Airport produces more noise than Andrews. Nevertheless, noise has continued to increase as traffic on Route 5 (Branch Avenue), and secondary roads has gotten heavier, and trees and green space are lost to new homes and plazas. Considering the relatively close-in location of Camp Springs, it doesn't look like we'll ever have any real relief from noise pollution in these parts.

Suitable for solar power

Energy-wise, we're in decent shape - that is, if you don't mind the fact that your juice comes from fossil fuels (mainly coal plants). The Washington area is part of a five-state power sharing grid – the PJM Interconnection – that is unlikely to experience anything like the electric shortages they've seen in California, the New York area, and elsewhere, as power demand continues to rise. Because of the deregulation of the power industry, Maryland consumers also have the choice to buy green power for their homes. (Note, however, that it's not clear whether deregulation is itself beneficial. People are having second thoughts after witnessing the situation in out west last year.) Green electricity is available from the power grid in our area - Pepco has been advertising it - moreover, it's entirely possible to generate your own green power. In Southern Maryland we do have enough sunshine to allow a homeowner to employ his own solar, photo-voltaic (PV) source to power his home. If you have sufficient battery back-up, you can even be off the grid entirely. For people with homes in rural areas, like 1/4 to 1/2 mile from the nearest power line, it is actually cheaper to go totally solar (Check out the Chesapeake Solar, LLC web site, www.chesapeakesolar.net for more information.) Moreover, Maryland is a "net-metering" state, where the meter spins backwards if you have excess power from your solar panels, effectively taking money off your electric bill, and there is a 15% state tax credit on the purchase of a PV system. (Wind mills are not an option in this area - not enough wind.)

Holding sprawl at bay

Fortunately, the forces that govern the creation of urban sprawl have for the most part passed over Prince George's, though for how long we don't know. We still don't have anything that resembles the mega-mall development parks, and the 20 mile strips of plaza after plaza that you find north of the District, and across the river in Fairfax. There is in fact an honest-to-goodness 7-acre farm still operating right in the middle of Camp Springs (the Biggs family farm), the owner of which still makes a living by selling produce at local farmers markets. If you view that farm from across the road, and mentally block out the development around it, you can almost imagine yourself in the peaceful, country setting that existed not all that long ago in these parts. The secret to living here is to orient yourself towards the tobacco farms, the peach orchards and the rolling woodland a couple of miles to the south, rather than the concrete landscape to the north. The Westchester subdivision, where I live, is at the fringe of the rural margin. We have an adjacent band of undeveloped stream bottom that leads south and west, which makes a narrow, but nevertheless continuous, connection to the farms and woods that stretch down towards the Potomac and Southern Maryland. It provides a green byway by which a variety of critters are able to visit our backyards: deer, beaver, fox, etc. The trails that follow Tinker's Creek are quite accessable and very pleasant to walk. It's perhaps the most under-appreciated feature of the neighborhood.

Lost cultural traditions

It's not exactly clear why the development barons have passed us over, though some have suggested that it has to do with the demographics of the region. The population is highly transient, with a large component of military and federal workers that never put down roots. The "white flight" phenomenon is definitely in evidence, which is why blacks are now in the majority. The racial make-up may or may not be good for developers, but it could perhaps be good for folks who are looking to introduce a new social paradigm. Minorities might be more open to innovation, fresh thinking, and new solutions – more so perhaps than the white, Anglo-European establishment. Beyond a handful of Hispanics (a growing number, by the way) and a small concentration of Filipinos, there aren't any other racial or ethnic groups to speak of in south county. There certainly isn't any trace left of indigenous culture. Native Americans were wiped off the mid-Atlantic map centuries ago; all that's left are hollow ghost-names of civilizations and peoples that don't exist anymore: Patuxent, Mattaponi, Mattawoman, Accokeek, Chesapeake, Piscataway. Not only has indigenous culture disappeared, but neither the black, nor the white immigrants who took the Indians' place have retained the cultural traditions of the "old country" to any significant degree. Again, this could actually be a positive thing if you could find the right way to introduce some authentic traditions, with a truly spiritual content, to a culturally starved population.

The bottom line: Camp Springs is not ideal but it's livable

In short, a Garden Zone Manager in Westchester is in a good position for "preventive" community interaction. It's a good platform from which to direct people coming out of the city – to point them back towards the earth. A place where it's possible to settle in, enjoy the positive things about your environment, and attempt to "grow the good" for social change. The challenge is to get people to start appreciating this comfort. I'm quite sure that very few of my neighbors give a passing thought to their fortunate position on the planet. Energy never crosses their minds. They flip a switch and a light comes on. They pay the electric bill each month. Beyond that, there is no thought. Climate, ecology, food, water ... same thing. Food comes from supermarkets, water comes from faucets. The park is a place to avoid – too many snakes, too much poison ivy.. Birds are pests that poop on your car, and trees are the places where they perch. Insects are creepy things that you have to spray, and so on. Obviously there is a lot of educational work to be done here.

The bottom line: Camp Springs is a livable place. Not a perfect place, but given the current condition of society, it's suitable for the transition period. Transition, meaning, the movement towards a de-urbanized, ecologically restored, community-oriented, locally self-sufficient world.

Spring 2005... Since moving out of Camp Springs I've had a chance to observe it from afar, to think a bit more about what "livable" means, and to compare my home of 17 years in Westchester Estates with residential areas in other parts of the country. I've also refined the criteria for livability quite a bit, and because of this I have subsequently changed my mind about whether Camp Springs qualifies as a livable place. Though it has some good qualities, such as excellent access to "connected green space" (see Section 4 of the CCA website), the negative factors outweigh the positive. Congestion, noise, traffic and too many badly behaving residents make Camp Springs undesirable as place to settle down permanently. Moreover, the remoteness, the unresponsiveness and the general reactionary mind-set of the county's governmental leadership does not appear likely to change any time soon. Without support from the political establishment, there's little chance of getting a Community Conscience Advocacy program off the ground in P.G. Finally, the entire Washington D.C. region has become one big, sprawling, over-developed mass of plazas, highways, town homes, apartments, hillsides stripped bare for development, cars, trucks, buses and more cars. From the far reaches of Loundon County in the west, to Annapolis in the east, from Manassas in the south to Columbia in the north, D.C. is a poster-child for the urbanized, Wal-Martized, Target and Best Buy world. Everywhere you go, it's just more of the same, with no end in sight.


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