Kathy Gonzalez answered the doorbell one afternoon and to her surprise found a police officer standing there with her two sons.
“My sons were good boys, never in trouble,” Gonzalez said. “So I couldn’t imagine what the problem was.”
It turned out the boys were riding their bikes by Lake Artemesia when the officer — Kenneth Gattis-Antolik, who is now police chief — noticed the sky darkening.
“He brought the boys home because he didn’t think it was safe for them to be so close to the water in a storm,” said Gonzalez, who runs an acupuncture practice, A Greater Well Being, from her home. “My sons are now grown and successfully launched. But the town is the same today as back then. We get along because we honor each other’s beliefs.”
Berwyn Heights, the Prince George’s County town about 12 miles east of the District, is that kind of place.
“An open, friendly and close-knit community where people care for one another,” said Mayor Stephen Isler, a nonpartisan elected official in his first two-year term. “We’re a melting pot of ideas and diversity.”
With a topography that is gently rolling, with old trees and spacious front yards, Berwyn Heights has a suburban feel. Modest one- and two-story houses with redbrick foundations topped with white or gray siding predominate, but there are also Victorian homes with detailed trim.
“Berwyn Heights used to be called the Mayberry of the Beltway because as you come into the town there’s a different vibe,” said Isler, referencing the idealized fictional town in “The Andy Griffith Show.” Isler also teaches at Robert R. Gray Elementary School in Capitol Heights, Md.
David W. Smith Sr., a resident since 2002, is a community affairs coordinator for Prince George’s County. He raised two sons, now 20 and 14, who still live with him and his mother.
“The streets are interesting because not all the houses look the same,” Smith said. “We’re a municipality, one of 27 in the county. We have our own police and fire departments, elementary school, mayor and vice mayor. We have access to resources and people who can make decisions on our behalf.”
There are trivia and movie nights, and the town “green team” works with schoolchildren to maintain a vegetable garden.
“Residents like to do things together,” said Isler. “We have a quilting club, boys and girls club, karate club, and seniors play Wii Bowling on Thursdays at the Senior Center. Plus, outside the town center we have a rain garden where we’ve planted flowers in well-drained soil. We’re educating residents about the garden’s benefits.”
Sharon McCraney, a 20-year resident and agent with Long and Foster, grew up in Berwyn Heights, and her parents still live in the same house.
“Prices have increased year after year recently, approximately 5 to 10 percent,” she said. “This is due in part to nearby upscale development and proximity to the Metro, major traffic corridors and the University of Maryland.
“When a nice property comes on the market, it’s only available a few days and there may be multiple offers.”
Gonzalez owns rental properties and “not a week goes by,” she said, “that I don’t have someone offering to buy one of the properties.”
Parks: Indian Creek Park is a playground with colorful Native American-themed play equipment. It’s adjacent to ballfields and the paved Indian Creek Trail, a walk along the meandering Indian Creek, a tributary of the Anacostia River. Lake Artemesia covers 38 acres and has a fishing pier, aquatic gardens and gazebos.
Sports Park is the site of the Boys and Girls Club’s ballfields. Pop’s Park is a playground with a picnic area. Fletchers Park, in Riverdale Park, has a playground and picnic tables. The 1,176-acre Greenbelt Park offers 174 campsites, picnic areas and nine miles of trails.
Shopping: The more than 100 stores at Beltway Plaza Mall are anchored by Giant Food and Target. There are also dry cleaning, tailoring, jewelry and fashion outlets, as well as a gym, bookstore, liquor store and barber shop. Whole Foods Market is in Riverdale Park.
Living there: Berwyn Heights, Zip code 20740, is one square mile and home to about 3,100 residents.
According to Larry Bivins, an agent with Long and Foster, six homes are for sale, ranging from a rambler with six bedrooms and two bathrooms for $285,000 to a new Colonial with four bedrooms and four bathrooms for $495,000.
Five homes are under contract, ranging from a rambler with three bedrooms and two bathrooms for $285,000 to a bungalow with three bedrooms and three bathrooms for $379,900.
Over the past year, 35 houses have sold, ranging from a rambler with two bedrooms and two bathrooms for $200,000 to a newly renovated rambler with four bedrooms and three bathrooms for $399,000.
Schools: Berwyn Heights Elementary, Greenbelt Middle, Parkdale High.
Transit: The town is close to the intersection of the Beltway and Maryland Routes 193 and 295. It’s minutes from Greenbelt, University Park, College Park and New Carrollton and 11 miles east of Silver Spring. Greenbelt and College Park-U-Md. on the Green Line are the closest Metro stations. Bus routes include the R12, the 143 and the University of Maryland shuttle.
Crime: According to the Berwyn Heights Police Department, there were nine robberies, seven burglaries and four assaults in 2018.