Oktoberfest 2013

Oktoberfest: Food, Games, and Trees on a Sunny Fall Day

Past President Gwynn Roberson serves the feast
Past President Gwynn Roberson serves the feast

An estimated 75 Piscataway Hills residents and guests enjoyed a sunny fall day at the annual Oktoberfest at Lot 39 Waterfront Park on October 5.

The food followed an appropriate German theme, including traditional bratwurst and turkey-stuffed bierocks prepared by Gwynn Roberson, PHCA’s immediate past president.

Maureen Bartee prevents underage drinking by twins Ryan and Colin
Maureen Bartee prevents underage drinking by twins Ryan and Colin

Gwynn also made drunken chicken over noodles, applesauce, and chicken sausage with red peppers and spinach. Diane Lishin helped with the food preparation, providing cheesy potatoes and baked beans.

“As usual, Gwynn Roberson took care of the neighborhood—hats off to Gwynn,” said PHCA Acting President Dave Lishin, while also crediting his wife’s able assistance.

The dessert table was overflowing with pineapple upside down cake, raspberry German chocolate cake, rum raisin cake, pumpkin cookies, and much, much more. Revelers also enjoyed a wide range of German and non-German beer and wine.

Kids enjoy the climbing wall
Kids enjoy the climbing wall

At the height of the event, which ran from 2-6 p.m., all the Waterfront Park picnic tables were full, along with numerous extra chairs. The new Waterfront Park playground again proved popular with the kids, who also enjoyed volleyball, badminton, and other games.






Black Forest Cake by Eva Mitter did not last long.
Black Forest Cake by Eva Mitter did not last long.

Eva Mitter, who moved to her home on Piscataway Drive from Tyson’s Corner in the summer of 2012, was attending her second Piscataway Hills Oktoberfest. She said she had “scoured the entire metro area” to find a peaceful home in a natural setting. “Getting up in the morning and looking at all the trees is simply amazing,” she said while relaxing at one of the shady picnic tables.

A first-time Oktoberfest guest, Bre Malone of Clarksburg, Md., was very impressed with Lot 39 Waterfront Park: “I did not know you guys had all this water and the beautiful trees.”


Old Fort Road Casino Plan Raises Concern

Proposed Parx Casino

A proposal to build an $800 million casino-hotel-entertainment complex next to Livingston Square shopping center in Fort Washington has sparked considerable concern among Piscataway Hills residents.

The Parx Casino Hotel & Spa, proposed by Greenwood Racing in May 2013, would be constructed on 22 acres of mostly wooded land at the intersection of Indian Head Highway (MD 210) and Old Fort Road North (across from the Giant supermarket). According to the developer, the facility, if approved, would include 4,750 slot machines, 170 table games, a 250 room hotel and a 5,000-space parking garage.

The Parx proposal is one of three that are competing for the right to build and operate one casino in Prince George’s County, as authorized by Maryland voters in 2012. The other two proposed casinos are at Rosecroft Raceway, sponsored by Penn National Gaming, and at National Harbor, sponsored by MGM Resorts.

At a community meeting held in Tantallon in response to the Parx plan, area residents, including several from Piscataway Hills, noted that the Old Fort Road location has the worst highway access of the three sites, with congested Indian Head Highway providing the primary access to the Beltway. Participants at the meeting also contended that the Parx casino would create unacceptable environmental damage, such as the destruction of woodland and heightened stormwater runoff in the Broad Creek Historic District.

Casino supporters cite jobs and tax benefits. “The proposed development is expected to create more than 5,000 jobs and $1 billion of annual economic benefit to the state upon completion, along with approximately 5,000 construction jobs and more than $600 million of economic benefit during the construction phase of the project,” according to a press release from Greenwood Racing. “In addition, the casino operation is projected to generate more than $400 million of gaming tax rev- enue for the state and local communities.”

A public hearing on the Parx proposal will be held Wednesday, October 23, at 6 p.m. at Friendly High School. (Hearings on the Rosecroft proposal will be October 21 and the MGM plan on October 25.) The hearings will be conducted by the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission (VLFLC), which will select the proposal to be constructed. Before each public hearing, the Commission will tour the proposed site at 2 p.m. and hear a presentation from the sponsor at 3:30 p.m.

“The purpose of each of the site visits and public hearings is for the Commissioners to view the proposed location, observe the surrounding community, get a sense of the size and scope of the proposed facilities, to hear directly from the applicants, and to listen to the public support and public concerns about the proposed project” said Commission Chairman Donald C. Fry.

For more information on the hearings and how to testify or submit a statement, see the Commission web site.

PHCA Annual Meeting; Elections; Neighborhood Watch

With former President Gwynn Roberson, Secretary Debbie Kutzleb, and Board Member Troy Lee not running for re-election, the Piscataway Hills Citizens Association will have significant leadership changes following the annual membership meeting on September 24.

Candidates for the vacant officer positions could not be found, so under the bylaws, Vice President Dave Lishin will serve as Acting President. The position of Secretary remains vacant, but Joni Jones volunteered to be on the board and was elected unanimously. Members also approved a motion thanking Gwynn Roberson for her service as President; she will remain on the board as Immediate Past President.

Other issues discussed at the annual meeting included the neighborhood watch program, the PHCA budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, and excessively noisy parties.

Board Members George Satterthwaite and Joni Jones provided a status report on PHCA’s efforts to establish an officially recognized neighborhood watch program. The program is designed to enhance the reporting of suspicious activities in the neighborhood to the police. Piscataway Hills is to be divided into 10 zones, each with a block captain. Volunteers and other members of the community are to report suspicious activities to the block captains, who will then contact the appropriate offices within the Prince George’s County Police Department. The program will probably not include scheduled citizen patrols, George said.

The first step in establishing a neighborhood watch is to obtain signed petitions from at least 75% of the households in the community. Piscataway Hills has 172 homes, with 15 of them vacant, meaning that 117 signatures are needed. George reported that he and the other organizers, after canvassing the community and approaching residents at Oktoberfest on October 5, had collected 109 signatures and need only eight more to submit the neighborhood watch application. More block captains are also still needed, he said. Once the signatures are gathered and the block captains are trained, then PHCA would receive two free “neighborhood watch” signs and could buy additional signs. It was proposed at the meeting that PHCA purchase enough signs so that each of the 10 zones could have one.

Treasurer Don Benedict reported that PHCA ran a surplus of about $600 during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, ending with a balance of $4,368 and 60 dues-paying members. The surplus was achieved despite the one-time expenditure of $1,079 for the new playground at Lot 39 Waterfront Park. Members at the annual meeting ap- proved the proposed budget for 2013-2014, which for the first time includes a $750 premium for liability insurance, a subject that had been debated extensively at earlier quarterly meetings.

The annual meeting concluded with a discussion of excessively noisy parties in Piscataway Hills. It was pointed out that Prince George’s County prohibits noise that is audible more than 50 feet from its source from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., with fines of up to $250 for the first offense and $500 for the second offense and up to 30 days in jail.

The noise ordinance can be found at:

Long-Awaited Community Center Opens with Gym, Dance Studio, Computers

After years of construction delays, the Fort Washington Forest Community Center officially opened September 27.

New Fort Washington Forest Fitness Center
New Fort Washington Forest Fitness Center

The new community center includes a full-sized gymnasium, a weight room, a dance studio, a computer lab, an arts and crafts room, multipurpose rooms, and a teen lounge. Attached to Fort Washington Forest Elementary School, the community center is within easy walking distance of Piscataway Hills, directly across Indian Head Highway (MD 210) at 1200 Fillmore Road.

Basketball players enjoy new gym after grand opening
Basketball players enjoy new gym after grand opening

Classes currently being offered at the center include basketball, zumba, sewing, jewelry, computers, senior fitness, tae kwon do, spin, and a wide variety of dance.

The center is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Xtreme Teens only from 7-10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays) and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

For more information, call 301-292-4300 or see the center’s web site.

Shoreline Cleanup Removes 1,000 Pounds of Trash, 6 Tires

The Piscataway Hills shoreline is now more beautiful than ever, thanks to the 25th Annual Potomac River Cleanup.

Mike Kutzleb (right) and other volunteers load the 48 bags of trash and other debris they cleaned up into a trailer for disposal.
Mike Kutzleb (right) and other volunteers load the 48 bags of trash and other debris they cleaned up into a trailer for disposal.

Thirty volunteers from Piscataway Hills gathered at 9 a.m. on April 6 at Lot 39 Waterfront Park to pick up trash along Piscataway Creek. Working well past noon, the volunteers collected 48 bags of trash and six tires. At 20 pounds per bag, plus the tires, the workers pulled approximately 1,000 pounds of trash from the shore- line, estimated cleanup cocoordinator Debbie Kutzleb.

The cleanup included all the shoreline along Lot 39, along with about half a mile along the adjacent National Park Service property. Dave Lishin, the other cleanup co-coordinator, also picked up three bags and seven tires on the Accokeek side of Piscataway Creek.

Shoreline areas that had been cleaned in previous years had relatively little trash, allowing the cleanup effort to focus on additional stretches that needed attention. It was apparent to the volunteers that the annual cleanup has been steadily improving the condition of the Potomac River and its tributaries.

Beautiful spring weather aided this year’s cleanup effort, and the volunteers received coffee and donuts to keep up their strength during the work period, and were rewarded with a cookout at Lot 39 afterward.

The Potomac Cleanup is run by the Alice Ferguson foundation, which also runs the Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek. The 2013 cleanup included 633 sites reporting from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC, according to the Foundation. A total of 14,586 volunteers picked up 312 tons of trash, including 193,800 beverage containers 27,400 cigarettes, 27,200 plastic bags, and 1,314 tires.

Yikes! A Snake!

By Debbie Kutzleb

Why are so many people afraid of snakes? Is it because a snake (the devil) tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, or have we been trained to fear snakes by Hollywood and childhood stories? Most of us have heard stories of dramatic snake encounters where someone was surprised by a snake; almost stepping on a snake; finding a snake in the garage; seeing a snake while canoe- ing or fishing . . . While such stories can be entertaining, they also reinforce our fear of snakes. The truth is that there are very few species of poisonous snakes in the U.S. and most people have no personal adverse experience from a snake encounter—other than fear. Snakes have been revered and worshiped in mythology around the globe in India, Africa, Australia, Europe, and North American Indian societies. Pharaohs of Egypt wore snakes on the headdress with the belief that they were protective. Greeks thought snakes had healing powers, and American Hopi Indian mythology describes a “yellow-snake-with-rattles” suddenly becoming the loveliest and fairest of maidens.

While ancient mythology is hardly a reason to abandon a fear of snakes,
the truth about snakes may help “set you free” of fear. Within the United States, approximately 7,000–8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes each year, and about five of those people die. In Maryland there are 27 species of snakes, only two of which are poisonous: the Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake, and there are no Rattle- snakes anywhere near Piscataway Hills. Contrary to popular opinion, there are no Water Moccasin / Cotton Mouth snakes in Maryland. Copperheads account for more cases of venomous snake bite than any other North American species; however, their venom is the least toxic, so their bite is seldom fatal. According to Maryland Poison Control Center, only two to six people are bitten in Maryland by poisonous snakes each year, and when bitten even when untreated, death is very, very rare. Compare snake bite fatalities with other risks facing Marylanders. Each year in Maryland, 500 people die in traffic accidents; 70 drown, and 50 die from fire injury. If the fear of snakes was rational, who among us would have the courage to leave the house? In the famous words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

In the seven years I’ve lived in Piscataway Hills, I’ve seen dozens of snakes while working in the garden, paddling the creek, or tromping in the woods. Most of them have been Eastern Rat Snakes or Northern Water Snakes, but I’ve been lucky to also see a Northern Rough Green Snake, Common Ribbon Snakes, Eastern Garter Snakes, and Northern Brown Snakes, and have been especially pleased to have seen an Eastern King Snake. Although other neighbors have reported seeing Copperheads, I have never witnessed a Copperhead in Piscataway Hills. Why am I so sure? I’m usually looking for any creature great or small, and Copperheads are easy to identify. Compared to most other Maryland snakes, Copperheads are stocky, heavy bodied snakes. They have a distinctive brown hour glass pattern, and like all poisonous viper snakes, their head is significantly broader than their neck. Copperheads often have a copper colored head and can be brown, yellow brown, pale tan, or grey.

Enough already about a snake seldom seen. Regardless of the species
of snake, all snakes are beneficial and rarely a pest in Maryland. Without snakes, it’s likely the woods would be overrun by rodents: moles, voles, mice, and rats. A single rodent-eating snake (Eastern Rat Snake) can wipe out a rat family in a matter of weeks. Rodents (particularly mice) are the source of spirochetal bacteria that is the cause of Lyme disease. That’s right, deer are not the source of Lyme disease; they are merely the last host in the life cycle of Lyme disease- infected ticks and play no role in infecting ticks with Lyme disease bacteria.

Besides helping control Lyme disease (too bad snakes don’t eat deer), snakes are great garden creatures. They don’t dig holes, although they can often be found in holes dug by other animals. Several small snakes can control the grasshopper population in a small garden, and the best cure for a chipmunk infestation is a snake. Unless harassed, snakes don’t make noise, and usually the only evidence of snakes in your garden is an occasional snake skin.

Snakes do not carry or transmit rabies, fleas, mange, or skin fungus,
and generally do not transmit diseases, although there are rare cases of salmonella infections from handling snakes. So next time you see a snake, don’t pick it up. Instead, give it a wide berth as they are mostly afraid of humans, and give thanks for all the good it does for our ecosystem.

Boy Scout Troop 1572

By Ian Wilmoth

Boy Scout Troop 1572, located nearby in Clinton, is a very active organization. The Boy Scouts welcome boys from 11 to 17 years old to join in camping, hiking, biking, backpacking, serving the community, and becoming prepared for anything life can throw at them. Last year, Scouts from Troop 1572 went whitewater rafting, kayaking, and camping at Solomon’s Island, placed luminaries at Antietam National Battlefield, and camped in the snow at Harper’s Ferry! Very recently, many members of Troop 1572 who were 14 or older made the trip to the Philmont High Adventure Base in New Mexico for a week of backpacking in the Sangre de Cristo foothills. Past high adventure trips include canoeing in Maine, biking the C&O Canal towpath, and scuba diving at Florida Sea Base.

Cub Scout Pack 1572 is a very active Pack located in the same place as Troop 1572. Cub Scouting allows boys from 7 to 10 years old to participate in family camping, pinewood derby races, and learning about the outdoors. Each age group has its own Den. Recent pack activities include snow tubing at Liberty Mountain Resort, family camping at Solomon’s Island Naval Recreation Center, and cleaning up the biking trail at National Harbor with the help of the Troop.
Boy Scouting and Cub Scouting hold plenty of adventure!

Come to one of Troop 1572’s meetings! They are held every Wednesday from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., except the last one of the month, at St. Mary’s Church Hall, 13407 Piscataway Road, Clinton, MD 20735
Troop 1572’s website: http://bsatroop1572.scoutlander.com/

Come to one of Pack 1572’s meetings! The entire Pack meets once a month at St. Mary’s Church Hall, 13407 Piscataway Road, Clinton, MD 20735.
Each Cub Scout Den holds 2 additional meetings a month.
Pack 1572’s website: http://pack1572.scoutlander.com/

Rabid Raccoon Attacks Piscataway Hills Resident in Driveway

Raccoon with glowing eyes just before attack

Kris Ran Court resident Pat Myers was about to close her garage door at about 8:30 p.m. on June 26 when she saw an animal run in. She looked closer and saw the glowing eyes of a raccoon.

Not alarmed by seeing a raccoon in the evening, she pulled out her camera and took its picture. But then it started walking toward her and Pat ran toward her car in the driveway.

“The raccoon then ran after me—very fast—and before I could get the car door open, it jumped on me, scratching and biting me on both hands and legs,” Pat wrote later in a Facebook post. “I screamed and was able to throw it off, but it jumped right back on me, biting me more. Finally, I was able to get in the car and roll up the window and back out.”

Neighbors Virginia and Earl Parsons heard Pat’s screams and ran over to help. They warned other neighbors and called 911, while Pat drove to pick up her daughter, Valerie, from a music lesson and then to Fort Washington Hospital.

The hospital staff said that a scrawny, aggressive raccoon was probably rabid. Pat had numerous bites and scratches on both her arms and legs and on her back, but she didn’t need stitches. She received a tetanus shot, a rabies immune globulin shot in her arm, and two rabies shots in addition to the ones on the wounds. She had to go back for a shot in the arm at three, seven, and 14 days later. The treatments were successful and Pat has fully recovered.

A County animal control officer responded the same evening to the neighbors’ 911 call. She took a report and searched for the raccoon without success. Animal Control set a trap the next evening, and something ate the bait overnight and escaped. Mike Reamy on Piscataway Court spotted a raccoon shortly afterward, but animal control officers doubted that it was the same one, because it had not acted aggressively.

The incident caused considerable concern for several days on Kris Ran Court and Pine Road, especially since the rabid raccoon was never caught. However, animal control officers assured residents that a raccoon in apparently such a late stage of rabies would die within a few days.

Kayaking Companions Sought

Kris Ran Court resident Stephanie Yankey enjoys our community’s access to Piscataway Creek and the Potomac River, but she doesn’t like to go out in her kayak alone. So she is seeking other Piscataway Hills residents with kayaks or canoes to join her in weekend or evening boating outings.

“I just don’t like to go by myself,” Stephanie said recently, explaining that boating in groups of two or more is better for both safety and companionship. It’s more fun, she said, to have someone “to go with and talk with.”

Stephanie keeps a kayak at the canoe rack at Lot 39 Waterfront Park and hopes that regular boating trips will encourage more people to make use of the amenity. She believes the $20 annual storage fee for PHCA members is well worth the cost.

Anyone who is interested in getting together for boating excursions can contact Stephanie. Those without a kayak may be able to borrow one.