“University Park has maintained its character as an island of urban forestry and a community of neighborhood friendliness,” said John Tabori, 70, who has lived in the Prince George’s County municipality since 1981 and has served as mayor since 2006. “Most of my neighbors I’ve known for decades.”
Keeping it green: Many families signed up for an energy-efficiency evaluation from the Small Town Energy Program, funded by a federal grant. Residents can then opt to implement the recommendations, from insulating attics to replacing old appliances. Rebates from utility companies and others reduce the cost for homeowners.
Chuck Wilson, who works for an energy nonprofit, helped bring the program to the town. He said that University Park’s monthly newsletter and e-mail list helped get the word out, but residents made the biggest impact.
“Neighbor to neighbor totally drove the program,” said Wilson, 44, who lives in University Park with his wife and two children. “Neighbors know each other, and neighbors talk to each other.”
In University Park’s curbside composting program, more than 150 homes collect household food waste in sealed containers. Town workers take the material to the National Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville. Wilson and Tabori estimate that the reduced waste from trash pickup offsets the cost of the program. University Park’s residents “understand the merits of keeping material out of landfills,” Wilson said. In the town’s latest “green” project, solar panels are being installed on the roof of University Park Elementary School, the final part of the $1.4 million three-year grant.
Close to the action: Chris Moss, 39, enjoys being able to hop on her bicycle and head to the grocery store, taking advantage of nearby trails for cyclists. “If I don’t have to get in the car, I don’t sit in traffic,” she said. Moss said that she also patronizes farmers markets in neighboring communities, “all very bikeable,” she added.
Bustling highways surround the town, which is also adjacent to a regional shopping mall and the University of Maryland. University Park has always attracted professors and workers from the college, but many residents have noticed an influx of families with children.
Muppets creator Jim Henson, a University of Maryland graduate, grew up in University Park, and a small park is dedicated to him. A wooden sculpture of one of Henson’s creations, Kermit the Frog, can be seen along one of the town’s walking trails.