Some in ZIP code replace Laurel with Rocky Gorge Tired of sharing name, residents change it

March 29, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

It isn't on a map or in a telephone book. It doesn't have road signs welcoming commuters as they pass through southeast Howard County.

In fact, most people wouldn't know a place called Rocky Gorge existed unless they looked at Susan Godzuk's mail. She is among the first North Laurel residents using Rocky Gorge in their mailing addresses.

The former North Laurel residents no longer want to use Laurel -- a name shared by portions of Howard, Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties -- and decided to find a name peculiar to their community.

"We don't want to share our name with any other county," said Ms. Godzuk, who contacted the Laurel branch of the U.S. Postal Service in January about using the new name. "We wanted our own name."

The Postal Service says using Rocky Gorge in the address is acceptable because postal workers sort and deliver mail based on ZIP codes. That's 20723 for the North Laurel, Rocky Gorge and Scaggsville communities -- areas loosely bounded by U.S. 29 on the west, Gorman Road on the north and the county line on the east and south.

Gary Ballard, postmaster for the Laurel area in all four counties, has given residents in the 20723 ZIP code a choice: They can call themselves Laurel, North Laurel, Rocky Gorge or Scaggsville, the name least preferred by residents.

"I wish they would use Laurel," said Mr. Ballard, who does not know how many individuals have changed the name on their address now that they have a choice.

But he has this warning: If the name Laurel isn't used, and a ZIP code other than 20723 is mistakenly written on an envelope or package, delivering that piece of mail could be a problem.

For years, some residents have struggled to explain to others BTC that they live in Howard County -- not in Prince George's County, home to the city of Laurel.

And for years, Laurel City has been associated with race tracks, used cars and crime -- images from which many of Howard's Laurel-area residents have tried to distance themselves.

"It's kind of an identity crisis for the community," said Gregory Fries, who identifies himself as a Rocky Gorge resident. "There seems to be some misunderstanding as to where the communities are."

For that reason, he said, the name Rocky Gorge "is beginning to catch on really fast" as a way for residents to distinguish themselves from other communities in the area.

Ms. Godzuk -- who has changed her address from Laurel to Rocky Gorge on her checking account -- said she picked the new name because her community is near the Rocky Gorge Reservoir, on the Howard-Montgomery line, and because "most of our land has tons of rock on it."

That leaves the name Scaggsville.

"Many people are offended by the name Scaggsville," Ms. Godzuk said, because the name doesn't fall gently on the ear.

For example, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has long chosen to locate itself in Laurel rather than Scaggsville in its mailing address, said Helen Worth, a spokeswoman for the research facility.

But APL isn't changing its address to Rocky Gorge. Although "that sounds better than Scaggsville," she said, "we would stay with Laurel because we would have to change stationery and all kinds of other things. It would be a tremendous expense."

Scaggsville, which has long been part of the Howard community, was named for the Scaggs family, which has lived for many years in southeast Howard.

The name's lack of popularity doesn't surprise 73-year-old Anna Scaggs, who lives in Laurel City and married into the family 52 years ago.

"I can understand that," Mrs. Scaggs said.

And she is far from offended when people change their address to avoid the Scaggsville label.

"They can even call it Savage as far as I'm concerned," she said with a laugh. "Savage doesn't sound all that great, either. But, you know, what's in a name?"

Pub Date: 3/29/96

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