Green project, 1812 bicentennial preparations top Port Towns' priorities
Money for War of 1812 commemoration, MARC train stop among legislative agenda priorities
Port Towns leaders want to bring new business, better roads and new transportation options to their communities, and are asking state and federal lawmakers for help.
Leaders and stakeholders from the four communities Bladensburg, Colmar Manor, Cottage City and Edmonston outlined their goals in a presentation at their annual legislative priorities dinner held Jan. 6 at Colmar Manor's new Town Hall and community center.
Officials asked for help preparing the area for the upcoming bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Battle of Bladensburg.
"It is estimated that there will be 1.5 million visitors coming to the state during that time," said Cottage City Commission Chair Aileen McChesney. "Think for a moment what that would mean to the Port Towns if even half of that number came here."
To help draw visitors, Port Towns officials want the state legislature to pass a proposed $500,000 bond bill to finance a Battle of Bladensburg visitor's center and monument, McChesney said.
The 1814 battle was a costly defeat for American forces, and soon after British troops entered Washington and set fire to many government buildings.
Possible sites for the visitor's center are still being discussed, said Aaron Marcavitch, executive director of Anacostia Trails Heritage Area, Inc., which is helping to coordinate the commemoration efforts in the area.
Improvements would also need to be made to several roads in the Port Towns, particularly around the Peace Cross at the intersection of Bladensburg Road, Annapolis Road and Baltimore Avenue, in order to make the area safe for pedestrian visitors, said Bladensburg Mayor Walter James.
Officials also requested immediate funding for a feasibility study regarding a proposed MARC train stop in Cottage City. Rail access would increase traffic to the Port Towns and make the area more lucrative for residents and businesses, said Cottage City Commissioner Patricia Gross (Ward 3). Currently, the closest MARC station is in Riverdale Park.
Another of the principal goals is for the four towns to be designated a "sustainable enterprise zone," which would provide businesses that specialize in sustainable products and services, such as eco-friendly building materials, tax credits for relocating to the Port Towns, said Ruthie Mundell, community outreach and education director of Edmonston's Community Forklift, which sells surplus and reused building materials.
Edmonston Mayor Adam Ortiz said there is plenty of underutilized space for businesses to use in the area, including warehouse space in Colmar Manor, a former elementary school building in Edmonston and potential retail space along Kenilworth Avenue.
The Port Towns are home to several completed eco-friendly projects including converted Edmonston's Decatur Street into a "green street," with rain gardens and special pavement to help remove pollutants from storm runoff and the installation of solar panels at the town halls of Bladensburg, Colmar Manor and Cottage City.
Attendees included state Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly, who pledged to support the Port Towns' agenda in the coming Annapolis legislative session, but cautioned that state resources were limited.
"The economy's picking up, but it's not where it needs to be," Ramirez said. "I can't promise a half-million dollars ... [we hope] we'll get $100,000 or $200,000."