Hyattsville needs both excellent schools and excellent green and park spaces. We are not a community that solves problems by pitting the environment, education, and community spaces against each other. We should preserve our schools and the spaces at Magruder Park.

Hyattsville Middle School needs urgent repairs. And Hyattsville's large population near the park needs much more green space, not less, and much better facilities--the park is full to the brim on evenings and weekends. It would harm our community, our environment, our wildlife, our wetlands--and our middle school children--to take away the small amount of park, green, and wooded spaces we have. Buildings can be renovated or rebuilt, but once park space and woods are gone, they are gone forever.

None of these problems should be rushed to a solution. But where prompt action is needed for the middle school, the best solution in a densely populated city is to go vertical. HMS should build a showcase school on its own site by building up multiple levels. The cost of doing so is not as much as the severe long term cost of losing our parks and fields and forests. Building on HMS's site also avoids problems from the flood plain and property transfers at the park, which could delay or derail the project.

HMS's acreage is not ideal--neither is our park's size for our population. But HMS's space is more than many inside-the-beltway schools have, and our community can band together to help students, families, and neighbors bear temporary construction burdens. We will come out on the other side with a top notch school, and no less park and green space for Hyattsville to preserve and improve in the future.

To maximize Hyattsville's potential and attract new residents, we cannot solve infrastructure needs by abandoning the small amount of green space and parks we have. Let's unite to support Hyattsville Middle School building up on the space where it is, and let's keep the park and green space and woods so we can to improve and expand it, not lose it permanently.

13 Votes Acknowledged
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Chris Currie 3 months ago

Hyattsville Middle School is past its useful life and needs to be either completely renovated or replaced. However, Magruder Park has the same need for renovation and expansion. The current facilities are essentially the same as what the park was originally planned for back in 1928, when it served only 4,000 people. Today, it serves tens of thousands as the primary regional park in our part of the county - including many low-income residents and people of color. We shouldn't have to choose between improving our schools and our parks.

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Marcus Hammonds 3 months ago

Here are a few options

  1. Carefully build the new Hyattsville Middle School in the green spaces, fields, and parking lots of the current Hyattsville Middle School lot. Move outdoor activities and team practices to a nearby park, i.e. Magruder or Heurich (aside from Soccer and Dematha Football practice, Heurich is heavily under-utilized and under-developed park space...Add a rec center, a nice baseball diamond, and a nice basketball court).

  2. Swapping the spaces...build the new Hyattsville Middle School on the current Magruder Park space, preserving the unused Magruder Park space as park space (bc there will be extra), then demo the old Hyattsville Middle School site to be made into a new large park space.

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Matthew Mangiaracina 3 months ago

Another solution would be to rebuild on the open portion of the HMS property, demolish the old building once finished, and turn the remaining land on the property into a public park that would add a more convenient park than Magruder for many residents with enough surrounding streets while also providing space for any HMS students simultaneously, as well as not needing any kind of supplemental parking as there is more than enough from adjacent streets.

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Mark Graham 3 months ago

Agree that residents should not have to choose between a needed upgrade to the local middle school and preserving our treasured park. There seems to be pressure to make a quick choice and the weight of that pressure seems on the Magruder Park site. The many disadvantages of building on open park land apparently are outweighed by the inconvenience and disruption of building on the current HMS site. As others have noted, there are surely ways to improve and expand the HMS facility while classes continue to function without undue burden to school operations . Also, since HMS draws from outside the city, what are the options for expanding nearby middle schools (e.g. Wirt, Orem, Bladensburg) or building a new school close to, but not within the City of Hyattsville?

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Lissa Bell 2 months ago

My vote is to build up on current site, rather than bite off a chunk of Magruder. Clawing back open space once it's gone, well,... However, we should go into it with eyes wide open regarding it's (temporary) impact on teaching and learning. @Mark Graham wrote that we can "improve and expand the HMS facility while classes continue to function without undue burden to school operations." As a former teacher who went through two on-site whole-school remodels/expansions, I can say from personal experience that the process significantly disrupted teaching and learning for years. That's not to say it's not worth it, but that's the reality.

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Michael Gorman 2 months ago

I agree that the school should be built up, and on the present location. It's unreasonable to try to build an outside-the-beltway style school inside the beltway. At the same time, parkland and green spaces are precious inside the beltway and should be preserved whenever possible.

It's unfortunate that the school system hasn't planned properly, but others shouldn't have to pay for their mistakes. Giving up parkland and/or habitat, just because of poor planning, is a bad precedent to set.

One last thought. Private developers are getting involved, and there's a big rush to decide. I don't want to accuse anyone, but our beloved county has a kind of history of fishy dealings. Something to look into, perhaps. It would be sad to read revelations in the WaPo a few years from now, after the trees are gone and it's too late. So again, I'm not accusing anyone, but this seems like a time to go slow, not a time to rush.

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Mark Graham 2 months ago

I'm also concerned about rushed decisions and deadlines imposed from outside the community. This is of particular concern when we're faced with a decision having such far reaching consequences.

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Kurt Brintzenhofe 2 months ago

Using Magruder Park is an easy solution for the Council, a bad solution for the city. Magruder Park supports community interaction which is needed for our diverse population. It is on the flood plain, indicating higher maintenance costs - something we obviously can not afford with the current school. Do not kick the can down the road City Council, address the problem and keep our open green space for this and future generations.

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Thomas Sheffer 2 months ago

I cannot speak to the various options for rebuilding on the current HMS site without further research, but I can easily speak to reasons why building in the open space at Magruder Park is a nonstarter:

  1. The park is a beloved open space that has served the city and surrounding citizens for generations for multiple recreational and community uses (community events, soccer, other team sports, cyclocross race etc etc). The outpouring of interest and support in the recent planning exercise for the park highlights the interest in continuing to utilize and enhance these uses, not curtailing them. Also, it is clear that the city has not put considerable time and thought behind the HMS build on this site given that was not even a consideration during that recent planning process.

  2. The site is environmentally sensitive and vulnerable - it is in the floodplain and has significant water issues multiple times a year. It is also adjoined by well preserved forest/wetland that would be directly impacted, not to mention direct runoff into the NW branch waterway. The grading required would create significant and irreversible impacts to the landscape (erosion, tree removal etc) and environmental services it currently provides, not to mention expensive long-term maintenance.

  3. The site has access issues - the current entrance causes traffic issues as it is, with the development pending on it's doorstep (in addition to other infill projects) and a steady increase of use of the park, this will only get worse. The city/county shouldn't even put this option on the table without offering up traffic studies demonstrating it's viable (the same expectation they would have of any private developer).

  4. These and many of the other reasons that the community has raised concerns about the Magruder Pointe development would apply here as well - protecting the park is very important to the local and regional community.

  5. Isn't the park city-owned and not county-owned? Why is it incumbent on the city to provide land for a county build site? Clearly a new middle school is incredibly important to the city, but as others have commented, it should not be a choice of having to sacrifice this cherished open space when better options exist.

Please keep me informed if any group organizing is underway to assist with opposition to the Magruder option and in further exploring the alternatives.

-Thomas tjsheffer@gmail.com

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Michael Gorman 2 months ago

One thing we should all be aware of is that the plan might not actually be to build the school where the playing fields etc. are, but instead farther to the southwest, by cutting down the woods to the east of the ballpark on 38th St. My reason for saying this is that at the City Council meeting, a member of the advisory committee spoke during the time set aside for public comment, and he advocated doing precisely this. Environmentally, it seems that this would be significantly worse.

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Chris Currie 2 months ago

This slide shows two sites at the park that are being considered, one of them being the southwest wooded site (which eliminates trees and the 38th Ave. baseball field) and the northern site (which obliterates nearly all of the recreational facilities of the park: https://youtu.be/Eumg6L4vC5U?t=102

To answer another question above: Most of the public parkland commonly referred to as "Magruder Park" is actually owned by the county. It is only the Magruder donation that is owned by the City. It doesn't appear that much, if any, city-owned property is being considered as the school site.

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Leigh Altman about 1 month ago

I just recently heard this proposal and was frankly shocked and dismayed. I can't imagine that reducing already limited green space is considered to be a good or viable idea. As others have mentioned the area being proposed would not only remove a significant amount of Magruder Park (the extent of which depends on the proposed plan) but would also put new construction right in the line of possible flooding. Is no one in our local government paying any attention to the direction our climate is headed? It's not getting any drier in our region. Trees and green spaces are at a premium and should be protected, not viewed as expendable commodities. Come on local and county government, do a better job than this! Don't rush into this decision, use our space more wisely, and consider other proposals using existing already developed land not in a floodplain and not impacting a heavily used well loved park area.

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