There was standing room only in Garrett Park's tiny Town Hall last Wednesday as about 75 residents gathered to celebrate the first anniversary of the town's status as a nuclear-free zone.
The 123-acre community was one of the first municipalities in the country to embrace the nuclear-free zone idea, making it illegal to transport, store, manufacture or activate nuclear weapons in the community. A dozen and half other towns have followed suit.
Two weeks ago, the State Highway Administration made Garrett Park's status clear, installing two "Nuclear-Free Zone" signs at the town's limits on Strathmore Avenue.
Members of the Garrett Park Citizens Association, representatives of local and national antinuclear organizations and Mayor Laura C. (Peggy) Pratt talked at last week's celebration about the widespread attention the small area has gotten since an overwhelming majority of the residents voted for the nuclear-free zone measure.
Ray Pinkson, a member of a local nuclear-free task force, put together an exhibit of newspaper articles labeled "The Squeak Heard 'Round the World." Included were stories from newspapers in the Soviet Union and Japan and letters from people around the world responding to the town's initiative.
Vikas Saini, a representative from a national organization called Nuclear-Free America, told the townspeople that the nuclear-free zone idea is not new. Several towns in Europe were "left and right" declaring themselves nuclear-free zones before Garrett Park did, he said.
However, Garrett Park's action was declared as law, voted on by the residents, whereas the European municipalities only passed resolutions declaring their status. Garrett Park has established no penalty for an infraction, however.
Eugene McDowell, president of the citizens association, said that even if the action goes no further than Garrett Park, "we took responsiblity for what was within our power. Spreading the idea is really the idea behind what we did."