FORT WASHINGTON – Residents and county leaders were in control of the earth on Piscataway Drive this time. Leaders in the Piscataway Hills community welcomed federal, state and local elected officials for a ceremony planting a new tree and naming May 2, 2016, “Piscataway Hills Day” in Prince George’s County and recognizing the long-awaited reopening […]
FORT WASHINGTON – Residents and county leaders were in control of the earth on Piscataway Drive this time.
Leaders in the Piscataway Hills community welcomed federal, state and local elected officials for a ceremony planting a new tree and naming May 2, 2016, “Piscataway Hills Day” in Prince George’s County and recognizing the long-awaited reopening of the road following a 2014 slope failure.
U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5), state Sen. C. Anthony Muse and County Executive Rushern Baker III were among those who spoke to the crowd of gathered residents. They planted a tree alongside the road, which they said was a sign of the community’s resilience.
“It’s a symbol of the fact that this community is going to be around a long time. It will stand as a symbol of our commitment as a county, as a state, to make sure that this park is open and available for generations to come,” Baker said.
Hoyer echoed those remarks, saying the tree is “literally and figuratively cementing the ability to stay and live here and raise children here.”
In May 2014, heavy rains caused a layer of clay in a ridge above Piscataway Drive to fall in a landslide, taking utility lines and parts of the roadway with it. Twenty-two homes had to evacuate, and a total of 28 households were severely impacted. Carrying a $15 million price tag, this event has been named the county’s most expensive natural disaster.
It took more than 18 months of work for county, state and utility crews to get everything back up and running, with the road reopening in late December 2015.
Everyone emphasized that was the result of the dedication of the community.
“You kept us focused, and you kept hope alive so that this community, which is an absolutely stunningly beautiful community, would be a community still,” Hoyer said.
Baker agreed, saying, “It’s amazing what citizen action will do. But what’s also amazing is it wouldn’t have happened without the most important constituency of all, and that is the people who live here, being willing to not only advocate that we step up, but also willing to negotiate, to compromise. That’s not easy when it’s personal.”
Muse recounted the story of how he and community members “hijacked the governor,” intercepting then-Gov. Martin O’Malley at a nearby event to bring him to the disaster site in person.
“I think this is a perfect example of what happens when everyone comes to the table. Government comes to the table, citizens push forward. If any of the pieces of the puzzle were not at the table, this would not have happened,” Muse said.
He and other leaders also said this project was an example of successful collaboration between branches of government.
“This is the way government should work together with the community at the state, the local and federal level. This is an outstanding day,” said Barry Stanton, deputy chief administrative officer for public infrastructure.
Piscataway Hills residents Gwynn Roberson, Dawn Taylor, Jennifer Gardner, Hunter Martin and Daisy McClelland were also honored for their tireless efforts to help the community during the period the road was closed.
Robert Reilly, president of the Piscataway Hills Community Association, also showed his gratitude to all of his neighbors, who showed great compassion in the wake of the slope failure.
“All of you that don’t live down here really stepped up and saved us. It was a hardship. So to get to the point where we’re able to get home, have water, have electric, is huge,” he said. “I want to thank my neighbors, who I become much closer to going through all this.”