Baltimore, where birds of paradise come to roost


This guy calls me the other day to say he's seen a few pheasants and their broods in the grass along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, just inside the city line. Another guy calls to say that last Friday on Wilkens Avenue -- "the Vilkens Strasse," is what Turkey Joe Trabert calls it -- he saw a "big fat one." Then a woman, Linda Kurpjuweit, calls from Arnold to say we shouldn't be surprised to see ringnecks in the Queen City of the Patapsco Drainage Basin. "After all," she tells me, "this is the Land of Pheasant Living."

Dirty hands, warm hearts

There's still time to get your hands dirty in observance of Earth Week. Organizers of a tree planting tomorrow at North Point State Park, Edgemere, need volunteers to put 3,000 seedlings in an 8-acre wetlands that drains into Black Marsh Wildlands. Call 477-0757 or 974-2265. If you go, dress for mud.

UM's tunnel vision

Today's factoid: The Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel at the University of Maryland College Park has been involved in aerodynamic research since 1949, and it's still considered "state of the art." The tunnel can create speeds of up to 230 mph. The designs of numerous vehicles -- cars, trucks, helicopters, airplanes, locomotives, sailboats -- have been tested in the tunnel. So have apartment buildings, roofing systems, missiles, radar systems, bridge sections -- and garbage cans. (That ain't nothin'. Mine get a crash test each week from the Bureau of Solid Waste.)

Library's youngest page

At the time, it seemed like a good idea: Paula Tribull sent her 11-year-old son, Ryan, to the Gardenville branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library while she finished work across Belair Road at Wockenfuss Candies. When she knocked off, a little after 5 p.m., Paula headed home; she assumed Ryan had done the same. The Tribulls, after all, live only a couple of blocks from Belair Road. But when Paula got home, Ryan wasn't there. He had been locked inside the library. Apparently, he had been so engrossed in reading -- Mad magazine, according to his mother -- that he missed closing time at 5 p.m. When he realized what had happened, Ryan tried to open the front doors. That tripped an alarm; a couple of city officers came. So did Ryan's mom. It was two hours before someone with a key showed up. "The police officers were nice," Paula says. "They told me what happened wasn't all that unusual, too. . . . The really funny thing was, some people came by to ask the officers about the bus schedule for Belair Road. So, through the little slot for book returns, they asked Ryan to look around for a bus schedule in the library. He couldn't find one."

The kid-friendliest places

Where are the best places to be a kid in Maryland? Howard County and Montgomery County. What are the worst places? Baltimore City and Dorchester County. That's according to the "Kids Count Factbook," published this week through the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a project to provide a community-by-community picture of the well-being of children across the nation. The project ranked each Maryland subdivision on child health, education and socioeconomic well-being.

Overall, of course, most Maryland kids are living relatively well, succeeding in school and staying out of trouble. But the Casey Foundation report provides little for us to brag about. We didn't make the Top 10 in any category the foundation used in its measurements. We're one of America's wealthiest states, but too many of our kids are doing poorly. "Maryland has the sixth-highest per capita income in the United States, yet the state ranks in the bottom half (30th) of the nation on the well-being of its children," the report says.

It's not surprising that kids do best in Maryland's wealthier suburbs while kids in Baltimore, which has the highest concentration of poverty in the state, get the worst start in life. But the Casey Foundation report indicates that fatherlessness -- a suburban as well as urban phenomenon, growing faster outside of poverty than in it -- could be the most significant cause of troubles for children. While Maryland ranks only 12th in the percentage of kids living in poverty, it ranks among the worst (42nd) in the percentage of single-parent families with children. We're among the worst (47th) in juvenile violent crime arrests, too. We're 23rd in teen dropouts, 22nd in violent teen deaths and 23rd in the percent of teens not in school or not working. Over the last seven years, Maryland has actually progressed in some of these categories -- we're now only 42nd in infant mortality, for instance -- but I think we should hold off celebrating just yet, don't you?

Out of his tree

Audubon's rendering of a purple gallinule arrived on a postcard on which a responsive reader provided this cryptic definition of Dumb Suburban Planning: "A man in a mental institution looking out the window watching men cut down elm trees to make room for another mental institution to house people who have been driven mad by the cutting down of elm trees." The note was not signed.

This one was. It's from Dave Eberhardt: "Check out the Gunpowder Falls State Park, north of Ashland Road. I jog along the North Central Rail right-of-way. Check out the giant castlelike homes looming at the top of the ridge, encroaching on the park. Do these developers take any kind of ethics courses?" Time to sign up for a tree planting, Dave.

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