Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008

UMD graduates partner to provide wider web of coverage

College Park development updates main focus of city-backed site

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Seeking a way to keep College Park residents up to date on development issues in the city, David Daddio decided he’d create his own Web site.

Daddio, a former University of Maryland, College Park undergraduate student majoring in environmental economics had an idea to create a user friendly Web site about College Park development issues where city residents and students could research and discuss changes happening in the city.

Daddio, who now lives in Washington D.C. and works for an environmental firm, teamed up with Robert Goodspeed who is a graduate student in urban planning. They launched www.rethinkcollegepark.net in July 2006. They spend about three to four hours a week updating the Web site.

‘‘We’ve written most of the content, but we have two editors who ensure the quality of the comprehensive coverage for the site,” said Goodspeed. They also have about 11 unpaid volunteers who attend weekly or monthly content meetings to discuss what is happening in the city and what they should write for the Web site, said Daddio. The College Park City Council gave the duo a $500 community grant in January to support their efforts.

‘‘What they are doing is very useful,” said City Councilman Robert Catlin (Dist. 2). ‘‘The blog contains a huge amount of information and it is information that is not easily available for people to see. If people understand it, they can ask better questions.”

They used the money to help them with the cost of keeping the Web site running.

Goodspeed said he has spent at least $300 of his own money on the Web site, which helped defray costs to retain the site’s name, image posting, a reader survey and maintaining the site. Goodspeed said the city’s grant was the first money they received from outside sources.

The site includes information about topics on the Route 1 sector plan and the proposed Purple Line, a transit system that will connect Bethesda to New Carrollton.

‘‘We want to explain why they are relevant and what it means to the city and provide updated information,” Goodspeed said.

The Web site gets about 300 hits daily, Goodspeed said.

‘‘We did a reader survey and asked people why they were reading, and they told us they were primarily coming for information and to be involved in decisions about development in the city,” Goodspeed said. ‘‘We are getting people who are hungry for information and people who really want to be involved.”

The majority of readers live in and around the College Park area, he said. They are residents, faculty and staff and also some university alumni.

UMD graduate student president Laura Moore said the Web site has been helpful in informing the public about a housing shortage at Maryland.

‘‘It’s a centralized place to learn about local development issues, and it also includes commentary,” Moore said. ‘‘They have great maps and you can visualize what they are talking about. They have a tremendous amount of information, but the site is laid out so the information is accessible and easy to find.”