From the Editor: Tragedies, trials and happy trails: 2023 in review
BY HEATHER WRIGHT
As we enter 2024, we cast a look back to reflect and review — to remember the old and then rally towards the new.
Tragedies and trials
2023 ended in tragedy for local county schools and their communities: On Nov. 20, two Riverdale Elementary School students were struck and killed by a van at an intersection near their school. Numerous parent leadership groups, including those from Hyattsville Middle, Hyattsville Elementary and César Chávez Dual Spanish Immersion schools, penned a letter expressing their concerns about unfilled crossing guard positions and a lack of pedestrian safety around county schools.
Back in February, a fire demolished one of Dr. Lilly’s offices on Route 1. And in early March, the City of College Park was rocked by tragedy when its then-mayor was arrested for possessing and distributing child pornography and, later in the year, sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Smaller trials and tribulations occurred throughout the year, as well. The Robert J. King Park, on Gallatin Street (aka the tot lot), which closed in November 2022 for major renovations, remained gated off and inaccessible.
In late February, continued frustrations with the Gallatin Street post office and home delivery concerns led to a meeting between the local postmaster, the mayor and other city staff members to “stamp out mail woes.”
In the summer, we ran an article investigating the ongoing Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) bus driver shortages, which lead to late buses, frustrated families and teachers, and lost instructional time.
Right before the 2023-24 school year started, PGCPS was hit by a cyberattack from a ransomware group, which was surely a trial to those staff members whose data was stolen — and for Superintendent Millard House II, who came on board in early July. And nondigital safety concerns led to required clear backpacks and the phasing in of metal detectors at PGCPS high schools, as we reported on in August.
And then, September brought a cargo train derailment — and a large spill of little plastic pellets, called nurdles — along Alternate Route 1, which resulted in road closures and environmental concerns.
New trails, happy trails …
Superintendent House wasn’t the only one who started a new journey with PGCPS in 2023. NKenge Baker took over as the principal of Northwestern High School, and hundreds of local middle school students started on shorter trips to school, as the new Hyattsville Middle School, on 42nd Avenue, opened on time — somewhat easing the strain of the previously mentioned bus driver shortage.
In February, Ashanti Martinez was sworn in as a member of the state’s House of Delegates. Martinez is the third delegate for District 22, which includes Hyattsville, Greenbelt, New Carrollton and Riverdale Park.
Locally, two new councilmembers began their terms with the Hyattsville City Council in June: Kareem Redmond joined Jimmy McClellan in representing Ward 3, while Michelle Lee joined Edouard Haba in representing Ward 4.
And we at the Life & Times began our own new chapter, with Griffin Limerick starting as managing editor in March and Kit Slack returning, but this time as Streetcar Suburbs News’ first executive director, in September.
The year brought some new gastronomic adventures to the area, including some delightful dosages of dough. Manifest Bread rolled out its new brick-and-mortar bakery and café at Riverdale Park Town Center in January. And a full-service deli, Between the Bread, opened in May, right near Franklins Restaurant (which, incidentally, started out as a general store and deli in 1992). In the fall, H & Chicken opened a second location, this one in West Hyattsville’s Queens Chapel Town Center; both locations offer Southern comfort food and late-night deliveries.
Humans weren’t the only ones setting off on new food escapades in 2023: In May, county-funded goats from Browsing Green Goats enjoyed their own vine crawl in Hyattsville, munching on kudzu, poison ivy and other invasives as part of the city’s tree canopy restoration efforts.
While we’re talking about invasives, I’ll take the time here to note that, fortunately, the nefarious nurdles’ navigations ended short of the Anacostia River, as we reported in November.
As the year itself came to an end, the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail extension opened in December — accompanied by much rejoicing, as Hyattsville had been advocating for the project since 2015 (see this month’s “The Hy-Life” column). Happy trails, indeed!
What lies ahead for 2024 then, as the road goes ever on? The opening of the Lidl grocery store to replace the old Price Rite on Queens Chapel Road? A rescheduled Anacostia River Splash? A newly refurbished King Park finally opening its gates? A city rent stabilization ordinance (see this month’s article by Emely Miranda-Aguilar)? The Northwestern High School soccer team winning another state championship? More invasive-species-chomping goats?
Regardless, we at the Life & Times thank you for helping us reach our end-of-year fundraising goal: We received $16,000 from you, our thoughtful readers, $15,000 of which will be doubled by Newsmatch, a national campaign to support public service journalism. Thank you for setting your hyperlocal newspaper on the right path in the new year. (If you forgot, we’re still happy to take your donation through omella.com/streetcarsuburbs.)
Happy trails as you wend and wander your way into 2024!
Heather Wright is the associate editor for the Life & Times.