- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2009

BALTIMORE (AP) | A 9-year-old from Virginia found a fossil at a dinosaur park near Laurel, and the bone is going to the Smithsonian.

The park has been open to people who want to go digging for dinosaur bones for only two weeks. But on Saturday, Gabrielle Block of Annandale found the vertebra from a raptor’s tail while visiting with her parents and younger sister.

“I looked on top [of the dirt], got a handful and sorted through it,” she said. She showed her mom, Karin Block, what she found.

“It did look like something,” the girl’s mother said. “It had little holes, like the marrow part of the bone.”

The family was scouring through debris washed out of an ancient deposit near an old clay mine and brick factory. Gabrielle’s sister, Rachael, said she’s the paleontologist of the family and hopes to find something when the family goes back Dec. 5 to look for more fossils.

David Hacker, an amateur paleontologist who’s spent years digging through and studying at the Muirkirk site, said it’s a big deal that Gabrielle found the half-inch-around fossil.

“It’s a big deal in that this little girl who has never hunted for fossils before found something. I didn’t find my first vertebra out there for several years,” he said. “How important it is to science is yet to be determined.”

The Smithsonian’s experts keep and analyze all significant fossils found at the park.

Most fossils found at the site are from the Cretaceous period, buried about 110 million years ago beside slow-moving rivers and lakes filled with turtles, crocodiles and fish. Experts say the 7.5-acre park and the land surrounding it would have resembled a bayou.

On Nov. 7, more than 30 people showed up, said Washington geologist Peter Kranz. He’s directing the program for the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation.

The park is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. every other Saturday.

“It was better than I’d hoped,” Mr. Kranz said of the first meeting. But, “this is not where I want it to be yet. I want this thing to move ahead, and the way to get it moving ahead is things like this - when people hear about things being found regularly.”

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