Dinosaur hunters know where to look in Laurel

It's true: Dinosaurs once roamed in Laurel. Of course, that was about 110 million years ago, during what was the Early Cretaceous Period.

The teeth and bones of Astrodon johnstoni, now the Maryland state dinosaur, were found in South Laurel as early as the 19th-century and as recently as 1991. And now, two Saturdays a month, Dinosaur Park fills with hopeful amateur fossil-hunters of all ages, looking for proof that a 41-acre South Laurel park was once the land of dinosaurs.

The park, just southeast of the intersection at Contee Road and Route 1, was dedicated in 2009 by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission as Dinosaur Park. Some discoveries since then include a large bone or claw found in September 2011 by amateur paleontologist and park volunteer David Hacker, which Smithsonian scientists said could belong to a big sauropod. In September 2006, a 2-foot-long theropod tibia was found and in 1991, a 4-foot-long section of what was believed to be a 6-foot-long Astrodon thigh bone was found by a dad and his young sons.

Developer Jackson-Shaw donated a portion of the park land and supplied the parking lot and fence. The park has become adopted by the Laurel Rotary Club, whose members have recruited help from the Greenbelt and Towsontowne rotaries in raising funds to outfit the park with signage and a shed to store tools.

This month, M-NCPPC dedicated a pavilion with a paved floor and roof, so fossil-hunters have a place to gather and get out of the sun or rain.

"Everybody's trying to do their part" for Dinosaur Park, Laurel Rotary President Joy Kline said.

Kline said getting running water at the park, to wash muddy hands and clean tools, is next.

"How to achieve getting the water in there; that's critical," she said.

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