The planned mixed-use community of Russett in western Anne Arundel County recently marked its sweet 16, going from mostly woods in the 1990s to a setting that's now home to 13,000 residents and several businesses.

About one-third of Russett's 610 acres remain open space, otherwise the community is fully built out. Its main road loops through the neighborhood, where landscaped streets end in cul-de-sacs and 12 miles of trails swirl around parks, tot lots, houses and towering trees. The 70-acre Oxbow Lake Nature Preserve, which draws waterfowl and birders, lies west of the houses, dedicated by Russett's developers to the county.

Swimming pools, playgrounds, volleyball, tennis and basketball courts, and a community center are among amenities funded by a $2.5 million budget, said Tim Reyburn, president of the Russett Community Association.

"When we have visitors, they say it's almost like you live in a park," said Devin Tucker, who's lived there nearly eight years.

Single-family homes, townhouses, condos and rental apartments fill this Laurel community. The homeowners association fee varies by neighborhood; businesses also pay. The location and atmosphere are part of the draw, said John D. Hughson, a real estate agent with Long & Foster's Laurel office, who also lives there.

It's between Interstate 95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the two major north-south roads, close to Fort Meade and other major employers. The overall area is projected to add between 400 and 700 families in the next five to eight years from the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process that is moving jobs to Fort Meade.

Public schools are Brock Bridge and Maryland City elementary schools, where most standardized test scores fell just below the county average. Meade Middle School, which sits on the Fort Meade base, underperformed the county average on standardized assessments. Also on the base is Meade High School, which has improved in discipline and student achievement in recent years, also is below the county average in state assessment exams but has recently gained several special programs, including one for students interested in engineering and the International Baccalaureate. A homeland security program is due to open in the coming school year.

A public library branch is within Russett.

The Sharks, the community's swim team for ages 5 to 18, is in the Prince-Mont Swim League. More youth sports that take place in the Laurel area are run though county rec programs and independent groups.

The homeowners association hires security patrols. "Russett, to me, didn't have much of a problem," said Lt. Jeff Silverman, a Anne Arundel County police spokesman and a former midnight squad commander for the area that includes Russett. Police have a satellite office outside one of Russett's three entrances.

With many sidewalks, curb ramps and paved trails, Russett is considered stroller and wheelchair-friendly, Reyburn said. Within Russett, a Wal-Mart intersection is due for upgrades to go along with the store's planned expansion.

With more houses and businesses in the pipeline for the western part of the county, long-term plans call for enhancing state and county roads. Anne Arundel County officials are seeking federal funds for buses geared toward workers at Fort Meade.

Retailers Wal-Mart and Sam's Club are within Russett. The Routes 1 and 198 corridors have shopping galore -- strip centers, big box stores, the Laurel Mall, the city of Laurel's Main Street and more. A short drive away are Savage, the Mall at Columbia and Arundel Mills.

Supermarkets, grocery stores, take-outs and convenience stores abound, and Wal-Mart is adding a grocery. Laurel has a farmers market during the growing season.

Routes 1 and 198 are full of restaurants, mostly chains and franchises, from fast food to pricier cuisine, including ethnic food. Locally-operated restaurants include Pasta Plus in Laurel and Gourmet Shish Kebab close to an entrance to Russett.

Short of the movies nearby, nightlife often means heading to Washington, Baltimore, Annapolis.

Laurel Park, the thoroughbred racing track, and a bingo parlor lie nearby. Within Russett, there are book clubs, parents' groups, etc. The Patuxent Research Refuge is nearby.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com