Volume XII, Issue 1 ~ January 1-7, 2004

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Dock of the Bay

Toy Story
As giants close, Be Beep up for toy Oscar

Most any local kid already knows that Be Beep is the best toy store around. It’s small in a kid-size, cozy way, and as jam-packed with toys as Santa’s workshop must be before the sleigh is loaded on Christmas eve. Here are mountains of neat toys, and you want to play with each one.

Now this small, local toy store has caught the attention of the Toy Industry Association, which is considering awarding Be Beep its Oscar, T.O.T.Y. — Toy of the Year.

photo by Lisa Edler
For 25 years, Jeff Franklin has made toys his life at his Be Beep toy store.

“It’s validation for the quality of work we’ve done,” says Jeff Franklin, the former school teacher whose store celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2004. Franklin opened the first Be Beep on City Dock, Annapolis in 1979. Today there are two Be Beeps, one in Severna Park and one at Festival at Riva in Annapolis. But Be Beep has stayed small, winning its nomination in the category of Independents with Less than 25 Stores.

Small is a seemly virtue in the toy business, which thrives on miniaturization. That’s apparently a point missed by the industry at large. Nationally, the giant chain Toys ‘r’ Us has closed 94 stories, including one in Glen Burnie. Legendary FAO Schwartz is in liquidation, and its subsidiary Zany Brainy, which has closed the store in Annapolis Harbour Center. Those trends have removed a lot of the competition, but Franklin isn’t miniaturizing his efforts.

“We look at the competition,” he says. “But mostly we look inward.”

Looking inward means Be Beep treats every customer as the most important one. Staffers love toys and want to help you find the right one. They seem to like you, too, and they treat you as if you’ve been coming in the whole quarter century. They even wrap your presents and let you choose the color ribbon. If they can’t find the giant doll or miniature truck you want, they’ll call Franklin out from stocking the shelves.

Franklin will emerge from behind the mountain of toys and head to New York February 14 to see if the Toy Industry Association agrees with the generation of local customers who’ve already given Be Beep top honors.

— Louis Llovio

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Out with the Old, In with the New
Busy week at the dump

Lovely weather, county bounty — which made December 26 a holiday for trash and recycling collectors — and too much of many good things made the dump the place to be at year’s turning.

“It’s time to move on,” says Karen Flecknoe, a regular at the Millersville Landfill and Resource Recovery Facility, throwing away a box of classic eight-track tapes she is replacing with CDs.

The week following the Christmas holiday is a historically busy one for trash as Chesapeake Country throws out the old to make way for the new. Not only is accumulated trash discarded. If you’re looking to start the new year with a clean slate, now’s the time to begin the arduous task of getting rid of excess accumulation.

“Christmas day, I’m already preparing myself,” said John Moreland, a supervisor at the Millersville center.

The first open day after Christmas was even busier than usual. Many surprised Anne Arundel Countians walked out Friday to find garbage and recycling still sitting on the curb.

“We did the best we could to notify people that service was interrupted for Friday, December, 26,” said Pam Jordan, county spokeswoman. Again New Year’s week, services were shut down Thursday but this time they resumed operating normally on Friday. Still, if Thursday is your scheduled day, pickup won’t resume until January 8.

Both the big dump at Millersville and local convenience centers — as they are referred to in the post-Fred Sanford era — felt the pinch of the abbreviated schedule.

“We had 1,373 cars come in Saturday,” said Kenneth Sheckells at the Sudley center. Many loaded cars, trucks and trailers with boxes and paper they had expected to be picked up the Friday following the holiday.

“An entire dumpster was filled with cardboard alone,” Sheckells said. “It usually takes a week to fill one of them.” He estimates that to be about 4.5 tons of cardboard. In addition, two and a half dumpsters were filled with wrapping paper.

On December 27, Millersville saw almost three times as many customers as in a normal day.

They carried in and dumped off all the disposables of a too-disposable society. From paint supplies and old gym equipment to fish tanks, bicycles and rotary phones, each bin is filled with contents of the newly cleaned garages of Chesapeake Country.

“We see everything here,” says Chris Willey, an attendant at Millersville. “All day long people pull up and throw things out the back of their cars.”

“As long as the gates are open,” added Moreland, “people show up.”

Millersville and Glen Burnie are open 8am-4pm except holidays and winter Sundays. Sudley is open 8am-5pm Tuesday through Saturday.

— Louis Llovio

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2003 Tough on Trees
Nature’s at work recycling toppled trees

2003 was a tough year for trees. On top of one of the wettest years on record, Hurricane Isabel’s winds and rain ripped up the Bay. Soil already inundated with water couldn’t hold anymore. With only slippery mud for roots to dig into, trees could not stand up against the winds.

By candlelight, I listened as Isabel blasted through Davidsonville, taking down three huge trees, two poplars and an oak, from the woods behind my house. Losses were far higher in some wooded county parks.

photo by Sandra Martin

Even before Isabel, trees at Quiet Waters Park were losing their earthly grip. “A couple of weeks earlier, high winds toppled a clump of the tallest trees off the beaten path on the way to the Hunt Meadows community. Huge rootballs blocked the trail,” reported Jan Hardesty, who follows that path to the park. But she and other walkers found allies in deer, who cleared a new trail within two weeks.

Isabel took down another 30 large trees at the Annapolis park. Trees blocked more paths, and roots tore up asphalt. Cutting and clearing the downed trees took rangers as long as deer. Newly sawed stumps line cleared paths, but the woods are as thick with trunks horizontally as vertically.

“We won’t replant the trees that went down in the woods,” said Ranger Brad Hunt. “Those trees will now provide habitat for rabbits and other ground-dwelling mammals.”

In the formal garden, handsome but weak-limbed Bradford pears also fell. They’ll be replaced, Hunt said, “with something more durable, perhaps oaks.”

Perhaps they should try cypress. Battle Creek Cypress Swamp in Calvert County sustained minimal damage, reported Dwight Williams of Calvert County Natural Resources. Not only do cypress love water, they have extensive root systems that keep them stable and immune to wind damage.

In Southern Anne Arundel County near the Calvert and Prince Georges county lines, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary lost trees along the railroad bed trail that leads to the marsh. It’s a bad place for trees anyway, as they’re exposed to wind, and the railroad bed does not provide a good place for roots to anchor. Trees along the woodland edge also came down.

The topography of the land is changed as huge rootballs rip out of the ground, leaving behind pits that may soon provide lairs for skunks, foxes and chipmunks. Fallen trees create nooks and crannies for raccoons, opossum, and other small mammals to hide in. Elusive amphibians, like newts and salamanders, often reside under moist, rotting trees. And as these fallen trees of 2003 decompose, they release valuable nutrients into the soil, nutrients that allow the next generation of trees to grow.

— Kathryn Reshetiloff

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Way Downstream …

In Virginia, a new strange-bedfellows coalition unveiled a new campaign last week aimed at preserving the state’s resources. The diverse new group, Virginia Forever, includes the Homebuilders Association, Dominion Virginia Power, Smithfield Foods, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the American Lung Association of Virginia. They lamented that Virginia ranks dead last among the states in per capita spending on the environment…

In San Diego, a panda born in captivity at the San Diego Zoo had better be a fan of rocker Bruce Springsteen. He was named Mei Sheng, which translates to Born in the USA, Springsteen’s famous song…

Our Creature Feature comes from Australia, where native food enthusiasts are urging consumers this New Year’s to give up lamb and beef for “traditional” eating. Why not try smoked kangaroo with wild lime and brandy sauce, for instance?

The problem, they say, is that some people are turned off by indigenous foods such as witchetty grubs, bogong moths and honey ants. “For 200 years of white settlement, there’s been resistance and ignorance about indigenous foods, and it’s only in the past year the market has started to take off,” Juleigh Robins, founder of Robins Australian Foods, told Reuters.

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Last updated December 31, 2003 @ 9:12pm.