It's a name to reckon with Group in Scaggsville fights newcomers' bid to call town 'Rocky Gorge'

November 01, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Howard Libit contributed to this article.

About a half-mile east of U.S. 29 -- by Route 216 in southeast Howard County -- a white shingled building with a sign in bold blue letters stands as a reminder of the more tranquil lifestyle this community once knew.

The sign reads "Scaggsville Station." And the current owner of the mom-and-pop-style gas station that has been there since 1935 believes that it is as important as ever to make sure that name never dies.

"The newcomers want to change the name of our town," says the proprietor, Robert "Bobby" Allen. "We're not going to let it happen -- not without a fight, anyway. All of us Scaggsvillians like the name."

Allen and others have started a petition drive to ensure that the Scaggsville name never disappears.

Their drive is a response to another one, begun by some newcomers to southeast Howard's 20723 ZIP code who want to call it Rocky Gorge -- after the popular name for the area's major landmark, the T. Howard Duckett Reservoir. Right now, most call the area North Laurel.

The controversy was bound to emerge as urban development moved closer to the little town that was named for a farming family that long lived there. Simple homes and farmland are being replaced by shopping centers, expanded roads and housing developments with prices starting at more than $300,000.

The battle lines between the newcomers and the Scaggsvillians were most evident in a recent controversy over the name of a new middle school scheduled to open next year.

Howard County school officials wanted the name Fairview Middle School, after the three-story Queen-Anne-style house at Gorman and Murray Hill roads. The house was built in 1885 and is occupied by Kingdon Gould III.

Newer residents fought back with letters, arguing for the name Rocky Gorge.

Scaggsvillians countered, saying that Rocky Gorge wasn't the name of their community. It's just a reference to the reservoir and the name of a driving range in southeast Howard, they say.

Now the school board's stuck in the middle.

"I don't like Rocky Gorge -- it reminds me of the driving range," said Susan Cook, school board chairwoman, during the board's most recent discussion of the name. "I don't like naming a school after someone's house, and not after a driving range, either."

The board has scheduled another hearing Nov. 14 to hear from both sides, again.

The newcomers say they never meant to offend the Scaggsvillians. They just want a name all their own.

Laurel, the name give by the U.S. Postal Service as a mailing address for all residents in the 20723 ZIP code, is shared by Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

"We were told by builders that this area wasn't Scaggsville anymore, that it didn't have a name -- it was just Howard County," said resident Susan Godzuk, who moved to the area from Columbia 4 1/2 years ago.

"North Laurel to me is an area that is looking for an identity," said resident Gregory Fries, also a relative newcomer. "Whatever the name, I support the concept of looking for an identity."

Last January, the newcomers asked the Postal Service if it would OK for them to use another name -- Rocky Gorge.

The Postal Service said the name didn't really matter as long as the right ZIP code was on the mail, 20723.

They did not expect their campaign for the name Rocky Gorge to turn neighbor against neighbor.

"I don't like the way things turned out," said Karina Zimmerman, president of the Hunter's Creek Homeowners Association. "I can understand how the people in Scaggsville could be upset. But I think there's support for the name Rocky Gorge."

Marilyn Watson, founder of the newly formed Rocky Gorge/- Scaggsville Regional Association, has tried to help restore the peace in the area by including both names in the civic organization.

"We're trying to resurrect the name Scaggsville," Watson said.

To Allen, a life-long Scaggsvillian, the name never needed to be resurrected.

"I grew up here," he says from behind the counter of his store. "It's always been Scaggsville. And we're proud of it."

Pub Date: 11/01/96

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