Calvert Hills is a small section of College Park situated between the famed Cafritz property and the Old Town of College Park. In 2003, the neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The neighborhood’s defining feature is the old trolley trail, a raised berm that was recently upgraded with a $90,000 grant from the State of Maryland. Many people probably see our section of the trail as just another segment on the greater bike trail system. Plans are underway to extend the trail to the south to Riverdale and possibly beyond. With the development of the Cafritz property and points south, I fear Calvert Hills will be viewed as a potential transportation link connecting the new commercial areas. Route 1 is at capacity and it would be easy to look to other routes to connect these areas.
To Calvert Hills residents, the trolley trail path is not just a passage, but a valued destination, a “place” in and of itself. The “bike path” is one of the few spots you see kids playing. Neighbors congregate in the evening, walking dogs or steadying toddlers on bikes. Sometimes you have to dodge an ad hoc skate park created by neighborhood kids and there are often chalk designs drawn on the pavement. Pirate flags appear on occasion. Many of our neighborhood traditions focus on the bike path–for example, our annual summer block party and our New Year’s Eve progressive party with midnight fireworks and trumpet serenade on the path. It would be an adjustment to have strangers walking and biking through our neighborhood but I think most folks in Calvert Hills will accept the bike trail extension.
And what about the Cafritz property? That’s a mixed bag. It has languished with old broken pavement and pipes, a ratty fence, and trash strewn along Route 1. A scrappy path has been worn along the curb as a substitute for a sidewalk. On rainy days, people walk in the road to avoid the mud on their way to College Park. Homeless people camp in the woods on the property. But farther down the property there is a beautiful meadow that goes down to the tracks with remnants of old roses and herds of deer go bounding over the remains of the trolley trail. Something could be done to enhance the value of this property for the good of the community.
However, the development of housing on the Cafritz property threatens the stability of our community. The potential impact on our children and their school is serious. Calvert Hills children have attended University Park Elementary for over thirty years, ever since College Park Elementary was closed. Twice in the recent past, our community has fought off efforts to bus our kids to far flung elementary schools. Both plans would have required traveling north past the East Campus development and University of Maryland traffic. If even the currently zoned single family homes are built in the Cafritz property, our students would probably be bounced to another school–with the Cafritz homes.
One thing that puzzles me is how all the local development can be approved without an adequate school plan in place. When the impact on schools is raised, the only response heard is that the developers pay a schools impact fee to the County. But there seems to be a disconnect between where the impact fees are collected and where Board of Education construction is planned . In the most recent school boundary battle, it was obviously a painful process to decide how to allocate students to the already overcrowded local schools. People who live in all this “upscale” housing will want quality public schools. Yet both public and private local schools are filled to the brim. For example, Hyattsville Middle school has ten temporaries and there are plans to move sixth graders from the local elementary schools there to accommodate pre-school programs at the elementary level. The high school planned for our area went elsewhere.
Can we believe the Cafritz family’s promises to add to our community rather than destroy it? In a Jane Austen novel, the young protagonist is often faced with determining true goodness from the appearance thereof. Were that Jane were here today.–AR, Calvert Hills