Remembering Arundel Mills … and Bigfoot

I was reminded this week that Arundel Mills mall opened 10 years ago.

I’ve been in the news business in Anne Arundel County for 10 years now, an anniversary that I noted over the summer. The construction and opening of Arundel Mills was definitely the biggest story on my beat (Severn-Jessup-Harmans-Hanover) as a cub reporter at the Maryland Gazette a decade ago.

I do remember being at the mall on opening day. The place was packed. I seem to recall the media check-in area was behind curtains somewhere … maybe near the movie theater. That’s about all I remember.

At any rate, I remember being there, but I don’t remember the actual story at all. I did an archives search and found my opening day story this week. I must have been assigned to write about traffic and parking. The business writer probably wrote the main story, I bet.

Here’s that traffic story, and seriously, I don’t recall one bit of it:

Mall debut overflows lots – Bulldozers save the day, create 3,500 temporary spaces

By PAMELA BRADLEY Staff Writer

The horrendous traffic jams predicted on roads leading to Arundel Mills mall didn’t quite surface yesterday, but another problem did: insufficient parking.

With only a few dozen of the 6,500 parking spaces remaining at 9 a.m., the State Highway Administration was forced to bulldoze new lots for the onslaught of shoppers at the $250 million megamall.

“It has been very good, no traffic problems since they opened those extra lots,” county police Lt. Dennis Bailey said yesterday evening.

Amid predictions that the grand opening of the mall, which will eventually feature 200 stores and a 24-screen movie theater, would attract 300,000 customers this weekend, police and the developer, the Mills Corp., had a battle plan of sorts.

They sent out an army of county and state police officers, county police reserve officers, mall security workers and SHA officials to monitor mall traffic and parking all weekend. Officers yesterday manned major intersections along Arundel Mills Boulevard to prevent and alleviate backups from the one road feeding to the mall, Route 100.

But the intersections weren’t where officers were needed most.

With the parking lots virtually at capacity only an hour after the mall opened at 8 a.m., officers allowed 500 cars to park in a dirt area slated for future development across from Burlington Coat Factory, said Lt. Bailey.

But that area filled up quickly as well so quickly that a team of state and county officers and SHA officials flirted with turning to their last resort: closing Arundel Mills Boulevard to mall traffic, and not allowing anyone else into the mall.

“That would be our last resort,” Lt. Bailey said. “We came very close to doing that between nine and 10 this morning.”

But before they were forced to make that call, SHA workers smoothed over another dirt construction area to allow more than 3,000 additional cars to park.

In all, up to 4,000 cars parked on overflow dirt parking lots, Lt. Bailey said.

Although the extra lots came close to filling up around noon, early shoppers soon began to leave the mall, freeing up spaces.

“It’s all worked out very well,” Lt. Bailey said yesterday afternoon as police prepared for a rush-hour blitz of cars. “We had a well-coordinated effort between all the agencies.”

And while the extra dirt parking solved the parking problem, not everyone was pleased.

“This is not fun,” Dale Brown of Annapolis said as he trudged through the soft dirt toward the mall at 11 a.m. “Obviously, they weren’t totally prepared.”

Some customers feared the parking problems only would get worse as the winter holidays approach.

“It’s going to be bad,” Bennie Coby of Glen Burnie said as he stood outside the mall with his wife, Mary. “(At) Christmas time, people can’t get in.”

Very few customers arriving at the mall said they experienced problems on the way.

The traffic jams on roads approaching the mall never materialized. An accident at the intersection of routes 100 and 170 about 8:30 a.m. slowed some travelers coming from the east. At some points, traffic on eastbound Route 100 slowed in the half-mile stretch between the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Arundel Mills Boulevard.

“There was no traffic at all,” said Margo Morton, who said it took her just 20 minutes to drive to the mall from the Lake Shore area of Pasadena.

Her friend Michele Fleming said even finding a parking spot wasn’t too bad; it just took some driving around and sharp eyes to snag a spot.

Last night, heavy traffic leaving the mall forced county police to adjust the traffic lights to accommodate outgoing vehicles, according to Lt. Thomas Wheeler. State police reported some heavy traffic in the area as well.

Staff Writers Seth Sawyers and E.B. Furgurson III contributed to this story.


Published 11/18/00, Copyright © 2010 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

 

Better than the opening day story, though, (I must be burying my lede here) were the stories about Bigfoot.

Yes, Bigfoot.

While the mall was under construction, some security officers reported seeing a big, ol’ scary creature at the site. They thought it was Bigfoot.

Of course, it didn’t turn out to be Bigfoot after all. The Department of Natural Resources sent up wildlife biologists and they found what looked to be bear tracks. Still kind of exciting, but rather ho-hum compared to Bigfoot.

The Bigfoot story made for a fun week at work. But it also brought out some, um, interesting people. Self-described “experts” soon began calling and visiting the Maryland Gazette to offer their take on the alleged Bigfoot sighting.

Now this story, I remember vividly:

Arundel Mills sighting brings out Bigfoot aficionados

By PAMELA BRADLEY Staff Writer


Last week’s sighting of a strange, large animal at the Arundel Mills construction site in Hanover didn’t just bring out the media — it brought out plenty of self-described experts on Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yetis and the like.

And although Department of Natural Resources officials determined that the mysterious creature was most likely a bear, some believe there might be more to the story.

Mike Frizell, of the Reisterstown-based group the Enigma Project, wants to investigate it himself and make his own decision.

During the past 22 years, his group has studied a variety of unexplained phenomena, such as a sighting of “Chessie” — something like a local Loch Ness Monster — near Kent Island in 1982.

The group also investigated a Bigfoot report in Harford County in 1995, ultimately deciding it wasn’t Bigfoot after all.

“From a logical standpoint, it makes sense it was a bear,” Mr. Frizell said of the Arundel Mills sighting. “It only stands to reason that’s a practical explanation.”

But a practical explanation might not be the correct one, said Mr. Frizell, who works in the chemical engineering department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

He said the accounts given by the four witnesses in the Arundel Mills sighting don’t sound like a bear, which he said would have been startled and run away after seeing humans.

Bob Chance has enjoyed investigating strange phenomena in the area for years, but the 1995 Harford County sighting was his last opportunity until now.

Mr. Chance, an environmental scientist from Darlington in Harford County, said that based on the history of bear sightings, he agreed that the DNR’s explanation of the Arundel Mills sighting was reasonable.

“I concur with the DNR that it was a large black bear,” Mr. Chance said.

But, he stressed, the existence of a Bigfoot-type creature in the area shouldn’t be discounted just yet.

Three construction workers and an off-duty police officer reported seeing such a creature at the mall construction site early on the morning of July 31.

The construction workers said they spotted a 12-foot-tall beast running past the van in which they were spending the night. The three men fled to a nearby restaurant to report the sighting to police.

Officer Nicholas DiPietro, who was working security at the site, responded to the call and went to check out the area. He said he saw inhuman eyes staring at him and sounded an air horn, but the animal didn’t stir.

The officer caught up with the three men and returned with them to the site, where he said he found 15- to 20-inch footprints.

Clifton Horton of the DNR’s wildlife division, who examined the prints on Aug. 2, said the creature was most likely a bear. The prints turned out to be only 3 by 6 inches.

He pointed out that a bear was killed about five miles away on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway on June, and two other bears have been spotted recently in the area.

Last week’s report of a creature lurking in the woods joins a long history of Maryland Bigfoot-type sightings, dating back to stories told to the original colonists by Piscataway and Susquehanna Indians about giant, hairy half-men roaming the woods.

In 1989, two boys reported seeing a 3- or 4-foot-tall furry creature running on two legs near their Odenton home.

In 1977, a West River man threw a tire iron at a hairy creature that he said had fists the size of hamhocks.

County police received anonymous reports of an 8-foot-tall creature in Glen Burnie in 1973. There was also a reported sighting of a 500-pound monster in south county at about the same time.


Published 08/09/00, Copyright © 2010 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

 

Stories like these are why I can’t ever have a regular job. You can’t make this stuff up. And nothing out there in the world is anywhere near as interesting as being a reporter.

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