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State Dinosaur Designated by Maryland Officials

By Marquita Smith
Capital News Service
Friday, April 3, 1998

ANNAPOLIS - It took 110 million years, and some help from a group of Maryland students who lobbied on its behalf, but the House gave final approval Friday to a bill naming Astrodon Johnstoni the official state dinosaur. 

The House voted 120-12 with no discussion to approve a Senate bill giving the dinosaur his due -- after all, he is the first Maryland citizen, said Del. Joan Pitkin, D-Prince George's. 

Besides educating children, naming a state dinosaur has a few other benefits, said Pitkin. Think license plates, lunch boxes and T-shirts -- there could be something for everyone, she said. 

The big bucks that Pitkin sees coming from an official state dinosaur could be used to help fund a dinosaur park or museum. New Jersey saw similar benefits when it named Hadrosaurus Foulkii -- better known there as Hattie -- its official dinosaur in 1991, she said. 

No one spoke in opposition Friday to the dinosaur bill -- a few even applauded and cheered before the vote. It was far different from 1993, when a move to make Astrodon Johnstoni the state dinosaur failed in the House by two votes. 

This year, the bill had help from elementary students, who came to Annapolis in March to try to persuade lawmakers to name a state dinosaur in Maryland. 

The students worked hard, said Pitkin. 

"They were the youngest lobbyists I've met," said Pitkin, who was a co-sponsor of a House version of the dinosaur bill that is now working its way through the Senate. 

The House vote Friday sends the Senate version of the bill to Gov. Parris Glendening for his signature. 

Pitkin and other supporters of the bill said designating Astrodon Johnstoni as the state dinosaur would help educate children about prehistoric life in Maryland. 

"He was a plant eater and he loved water," she said. 

Children will learn that Astrodon Johnstoni was a type of brachiosaur that resembled a cross between an elephant and a giraffe. 

The dinosaur's bones were first discovered in Laurel. The Prince George's County site where scientists found many of the fossils will soon become a museum and historical park, she said. 

"We are often required to review very serious issues when it comes to children and education," said Pitkin, explaining that the bill was of a lighter nature. 

But it was not frivolous, she said. 

Pitkin, who has nine grandchildren, said if they remember nothing else she's done this session, they will not forget that she helped to get them a state dinosaur. 

Copyright 2001 and 2002 University of Maryland College of Journalism

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