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Maryland may get state dinosaur

March 19, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Maryland may get state dinosaur

ANNAPOLIS - Sure, "Jurassic Park" and Barney are big, but those media darlings and other icons of the dinosaur craze don't belong to Maryland.

The astrodon johnstoni, however, is as home grown as blue crabs and black-eyed Susans, and that's why some would like to make it the official state dinosaur.

Seriously.

"State symbols are not just frivolous things," Del. Joan B. Pitkin, sponsor of legislation to designate at official state dinosaur, told the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee Wednesday.

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Pitkin and other supporters said that in addition to drawing increased interest to what they call "Maryland's first citizen," naming an official state dinosaur could increase tourism and paleontologic research in the state.

"This would bring money into the state," said Peter Kranz, president of the Washington, D.C. -based Dinosaur Fund, a nonprofit organization that promotes dinosaur research and education.

Kranz, wearing a pith helmet and sitting before a model of a plastic dinosaur, explained that selecting the astrodon johnstoni makes perfect sense because its fossils have been found only in Maryland.

"It is a native of Maryland and nowhere else," Kranz said.

The dinosaur was part of the group known as sauropods, large creatures with long necks and tails.

Dozens of school children from across the state have lobbied for the bill in weekly visits to lawmakers since the legislative session began in January.

"It's not me that's promoting the bill. The children are," Kranz said.

Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, has received several letters from local children who support the legislation.

"I know you think adopting a dinosaur will just drain a day out of your busy life but it will change Maryland forever. Let's give a small state something that will make it special," wrote Rick Marin of Frederick, Md.

Kranz wouldn't speculate on chances the bill would be approved by the House panel. A Senate version has been approved by a committee and is awaiting a floor vote, possibly as early as this week.

If the bill is passed, Maryland would join New Jersey as the only two states to have official dinosaurs.

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