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Patapsco Valley's history is focus at Avalon center


On the Grist Mill Trail at Patapsco Valley State Park, bicyclists and walkers leisurely move along the shaded path from Avalon to the swinging bridge at Orange Grove. The river flows tranquilly beside the trail, and only a careful observer can see the traces that remain of the valley's past.

Encouraging a greater awareness of the Patapsco Valley's history is the primary mission the Avalon History Visitor Center, which was dedicated and opened May 13. The center is housed in the sole remaining structure of the Avalon Iron Works Village: a 165-year-old duplex that formerly served as a residence for workers and their families.

The center's exhibit room displays a series of chronologically arranged interpretive panels that narrate the history of the Patapsco Valley. The panels range in subject matter from the riverside hunting camps of the Susquehannockand PiscatawayIndians to the construction of mills along the Patapsco River and the establishment in 1907 of the Patapsco State Forest Reserve as Maryland's first state park.

Funded by a grant from The Friends of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway, the panels were developed by GS Images of Hagerstown, which also develops National Park Service displays. The high-quality interpretive panels combine illustrations, archive photos and concise narration to help visitors perceive how the Patapsco Valley has changed over time.

In the 19th century, the Patapsco Valley was among the major industrial regions in the eastern United States. For example, the flour mill at Orange Grove was the largest flour mill east of Minnesota. The flood of 1868 initiated a period of decline for industry in the valley, and the flood of 1972 washed away many of the visible markers of the region's past.

Park Naturalist Offutt Johnson hopes that the opening of the center will only contribute to a trend of growing public interest in the history of the Patapsco Valley.

"This area is so rich in history, and we've seen a great increase of interest in recent years," said Johnson.

The story of the establishment of the center is nearly as remarkable as the history of the region. Lacking public funding, Johnson and other park personnel relied heavily upon voluntarism. Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park served as the sponsor of the History Visitor Center project.

The building, which suffered much damage during the 1972 flood, required substantial renovation. Richard Lombardoof Harkins Builders in Silver Spring coordinated the renovation effort, which included replacing the roof, building new porches, and installing new plumbing and heating and cooling systems.

In addition, Bill Prehnof Elkridge restored the building's chimneys above the roofline. All restoration was performed on a volunteer basis.

Scouts from Troop 432 in Elkridge and Troop 764 in Arbutus also enhanced the site by developing trailside history displays. Finally, under the leadership of Jim Palmer, Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park developed and began to implement a landscape plan for the grounds surrounding the center.

"It really took a community effort to make this happen," Johnson said. "The cooperation among all those involved was just tremendous."

The Avalon History Visitor Center is open weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekdays by appointment.

Information: 410-737-0451.

Add it up

What is the sum of the creative application of mathematics, athletic prowess and a beautiful spring day? Elkridge Landing Middle School's Fourth Annual Math Olympics, of course.

The Math Olympics, an innovative learning activity for eighth-graders that combines mathematics and physical education, was held at the school May 26.

The Math Olympics concept was developed by Elkridge Landing math teachers Maisoon Zahghaland Ann Kane, and physical education instructor Carol Jones. Pupils rotate among activity stations that require both physical activity and computation. Each activity station is staffed by a faculty member.

"The enthusiasm of the teachers is the key to the success of the event," Zahghal said.

As pupils calculated free-throw percentages at the foul-shot station, added decimals at the archery station and calculated percent of decrease at the waiter race, they were generally enthusiastic.

"It's a really fun way to learn," said Clifton Hobbsas he completed his archery worksheet.

At minimum, the children enjoyed the Math Olympics as a unique learning experience and an engaging reprieve from the classroom.

"It sure beats math class," Megan Sanderssaid.

Band festival

On May 20, the Elkridge Landing Middle School Symphonic Band, directed by Rebecca Braukus, was rated "superior" and won first place and the Judges Choice Award at the Hershey Park Band Festival and Competition in Hershey, Pa. The competition included bands from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and New Jersey.

Burleigh Manor Middle School music pupils also excelled at the Hershey competition, collectively receiving 11 awards. Group awards included first place for the chamber choir, orchestra and wind ensemble, and second place for the string ensemble. Individual award recipients included Emi Distefano(Outstanding Flute Solo), Jessica Engler(Outstanding Saxophone Solo) and Michael Trexler (Outstanding Euphonium Solo).

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