Grassroots opens cold-weather shelter program

The 11th season of the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center's cold-weather shelter program got underway last week and will continue through March 30 at alternating Howard County faith communities.

The shelter program is designed for people who cannot find emergency shelter when Grassroots is full.


Grassroots is located at 6700 Freetown Road in Columbia. For information, call 410-531-6006, or go to

The 24-hour crisis hot line is 410-531-6677.


This year, 16 places of worship in the county are hosing the shelter for one or two weeks.

Church volunteers provide meals, transportation, clothes, medicine and laundry services, and Grassroots provides on-site staff, management and coordination.

Participating congregations are Atholton Seventh-day Adventist Church, Bethany United Methodist Church, Bridgeway Community Church, Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church, Columbia Community Church, Covenant Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church of Howard County, Glen Mar United Methodist Church, Grace Community Church, Kittamaqundi Community Church, Linden-Linthicum United Methodist Church, Owen Brown Interfaith Center, St. John Baptist Church, St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Paul's Catholic Church and Temple Isaiah.

Last year, 70 people, including 12 children, attended the cold-weather shelter program. Participants receive services including assistance with food stamps, medical assistance, case management referrals, preparing resumes and tax returns, and getting Social Security cards.

Grassroots operates Howard County's only emergency shelter for homeless men, women and families and the Grassroots Day Resource Center. In addition, the nonprofit operates a 24-hour crisis intervention service, staffed by counselors who field calls to its 24-hour hot line and see walk-in clients. As part of its intervention services, Grassroots also operates the county's Mobile Crisis Team, which responds to family emergencies.

—Staff Reports

Robinson Nature Center wins state green tourism award

Howard County's James & Anne Robinson Nature Center has won the Maryland Office of Tourism's 2013 Green/Sustainable Tourism Award. State officials announced the win last week at the annual Maryland Tourism and Travel summit.


The award recognizes a state tourism business or destination with successful green practices that have led to a positive economic impact or cost savings. Green practices include waste reduction, water conservation and energy recycling.

Awardees must be part of the Maryland Green Travel program, a self-certification program that identifies tourism businesses making an effort to reduce their environmental impact.

Opened in 2011, the Robinson Nature Center has energy-efficient features such as geothermal heating and cooling, a green roof and solar panels, which work together to reduce energy use at the facility by 30 percent, per county figures.

—Amanda Yeager, Baltimore Sun Media Group

School board approves plans for new Wilde Lake Middle School

The Howard County Board of Education voted unanimously last week to replace Wilde Lake Middle School — the county's oldest middle school — with a new facility that would open in August 2017. Construction is planned to begin in July 2015.


The new school will be built on current school property, just south of the existing middle school, so students won't be displaced during the nearly two years of construction, the Howard County schools' director of school construction, Bruce Gist, told the board Nov. 21.

"Columbia is growing," Gist said. "Our projections show the need for an addition, but the building is in need of a systematic update."

The school system initially planned for a renovation and addition at the 515-seat school, which opened in 1969 and was last renovated in 1998. As with the new school, construction would have started in 2015, but earlier this fall the Wilde Lake community called for the project to be accelerated. The board asked staff for a feasibility study on the school, which led to the final recommendation for a new facility, which will seat 662 students.

The plans call for a "net-zero" building, which, according to Robyn Toth, an architect with TCA Architects, is one that "over the course of the first year, the amount of energy consumed by the building will be produced on-site, creating a net-zero energy consumption." This would be done, Toth said, through numerous green features — particularly solar panels.

In planning for a net-zero building, Gist said the system was "confident" it would receive a $2.5 million grant from the Maryland Energy Administration for the school. The final price tag on the school would be $36.6 million.

—Sara Toth, Baltimore Sun Media Group


Additional dates for thinning the deer herd

The Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks launched its 2013 schedule last week for managing deer through use of sharpshooters, who come to locations in the county to thin the deer herd.

Officials said program is held to "help maintain a stable, balanced white-tailed deer population on county lands where deer browsing has been shown to reduce biodiversity." The first date for the hunts was Nov. 21 at the Alpha Ridge Landfill.

County officials said that sharpshooter program is different from managed hunts, which were announced in September. In the sharpshooter program, trained personnel using noise-suppressed rifles hunt under a special permit issued by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The deer meat is donated to charities in the area.

County officials said properties involved in the hunts will be closed to the public during the hours of operation, 3:30 p.m. to midnight, unless otherwise noted. Remaining sites and schedule are as follows:

•Alpha Ridge Landfill: Jan. 22, dawn to 11 a.m.


•Belmont Park: Dec. 19, Jan. 27, Feb. 13, March 10.

•Centennial Park: Dec. 5, Jan. 13, Feb. 10, Feb. 27.

•Daniel's Mill Overlook: Dec. 9, Jan. 6, Feb. 24.

•Governor's Run Open Space: Dec. 12, Feb. 3, Feb. 17, March 6.

•Gray Rock Open Space: Dec. 5, Jan. 13, Feb. 10, Feb. 27.

•Hollifield Farm: Dec. 9, Jan. 6, Feb. 24.


•Meadowbrook Park: Dec. 16, Dec. 23.

•Mount Hebron Open Space: Dec. 9, Jan. 6, Feb. 24.

Howard County Times: Top stories

Howard County Times: Top stories


Daily highlights from Howard County's number one source for local news.

•Robinson Nature Center: Dec. 2, March 3.

•Rockburn Branch Park: Dec. 19, Jan. 27, Feb. 13, March 10.

•Worthington Park: Dec. 12, Feb. 3, Feb. 17, March 6.

For more information on the deer management program, call the Department of Recreation & Parks at 410-313-1675 or go to


The department also has a Deer Management Reference Manual to help homeowners and gardeners live with white-tailed deer. The manual, which is available in all county library branches, contains information on the use of deer repellents, fencing to protect crops and property, how to avoid deer-auto collisions and Lyme disease prevention.

The department and the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service can also arrange to have experts on the topic speak to homeowner associations, schools or other groups.

—Staff Reports