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By Brandon Dudley
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Jeremy "Kipp" Clark wanted to learn more about his new community of Historic Ellicott City, but could find very little online to help him.
"I couldn't find anything on the Web," the 35-year-old freelance graphic designer and photographer said, "and I really wanted to put something back into the community. I know it sounds lame, but I really did."
The English transplant loved the area he moved into with his wife, Yesim, in 2002, and decided he was going to take matters into his own hands. So he created a Historic Ellicott City-centric Web site, www.ellicottcity.net.
The site went live in January 2004 and has attracted about 1,500 visitors a month and is picking up steadily as word gets out.
The site offers a glimpse of the local community and its history and is illustrated by photos that Clark has taken. He offers photos, history and current information about such attractions as the Patapsco Female Institute, links to activities such as hiking and camping in the area, and even has sections devoted to one of the quirkier aspects of Ellicott City , the "Bubble Man" who stands in front of the Forget-Me-Not Factory creating gigantic bubbles with wands.
The Web site also has a section devoted to the area restaurants and bars, along with photos, histories and most with menus.
Restaurants and local businesses are charged $150 per year for the service, and all their special events and updates are advertised on the Web site.
"The restaurant section has been getting slammed'' with visitors, Clark said.
Clark does not charge for the rest of the listings on his site, such as local attractions and community notices. He has set up a forum and chat room and has also set up a community section where people can post yard sales, employment opportunities, and even talk about their own ghostly experiences at Hell House.
He also has a section devoted to residential rental properties, his most popular part of the site, he says.
Members of the local business community say that it's a welcome addition to their businesses and their community.
"Unity brings out the best of people," said Mojan Bagha, owner of Main Street Oriental Rugs and one of the first businesses to sign up with the site. "If everyone in Ellicott City could become united for promoting Ellicott City , I'm all for that. If I become part of a bigger business, I not only promote myself, but I promote everyone."
John Bassett, owner of Carpe Vinum and "a fellow Brit," as he says, is also a member of the site.
"I was looking for a small amount of exposure, and it seemed like it was a good way to go," said Bassett, who said he has been happy with the site and is looking to expand his presence on the Web site. Clark sees the Web site as helpful not only for local residents, but also for tourists who are looking for area places to visit. Tourists "can check it out and say 'Oh, that looks cool, I can take the kids there,'" Clark said.
"We think that the service he's providing, if it increases the visibility of Ellicott City , then it's good for Ellicott City ," said Rachelina Bonacci, executive director of the Howard County Tourism Council.
Clark has bigger plans for the site, too. He wants to expand it, adding more information and pictures of local attractions, and possibly a section about local schools, as well as a support section listing hotline numbers for victims of crime or abuse.
Clark has yet to make much money from the site. He hopes it leads to a bit of cash in his pocket and more work, but he's happy if the site brings the community together a bit more.
"I just want my Web site to have what everyone wants to find out about Ellicott City ," Clark added.
For more information, visit www.ellicottcity.net.
E-mail Brandon Dudley at email@example.com.