Montgomery Parks is looking at three conceptual designs for Caroline Freeland Park that would give it an open lawn area, event staging site on unused Hampden Lane and a more formal entrance with stairs at the corner of Arlington Road and Elm Street.
In all three designs, presented by Parks staff and its landscape architect on Wednesday, the popular fenced-in playground in the back corner of the park would remain and in some cases would be made larger, perhaps with a “discovery play area” to appeal to kids too old for swing sets and jungle gyms.
“We want to bring clarity,” said landscape architect Dennis Carmichael, from Alexandria-based firm ParkerRodriguez. “Each one of these schemes brings focus to the areas within the park.”
Carmichael and Parks project manager Lucas Bonney made clear the designs presented Wednesday were preliminary. They asked residents what they liked and what they didn’t about each option as a way to gauge which concepts should be included and which should be excluded in a final facility plan.
That facility plan is set to go before the Planning Board in December 2014 or January 2015 and would be subject to further review once a more detailed plan is etched out. Parks hopes to have the Caroline Freeland Park renovation project in the county’s next capital budget, which will run from fiscal year 2017-fiscal year 2022.
It’s clear the park as stands, along Arlington Road just south of the Bethesda Library, isn’t being used to its potential.
At a November meeting with the community at the Library, residents reported the playground was a popular and essential element of the park. Opinions were split on the usefulness of the “Bethesda Walk Around” sculpture.
Other than that, few things about the park stood out.
The three options presented Wednesday seek to better organize the park’s one acre and utilize the dead-end, no vehicles allowed portion of Hampden Lane that divides the park from the Library grounds.
All three designs included some type of improved use for Hampden Lane, which Parks officials said has been cleared to integrate into the new Freeland Park — as long as fire trucks and emergency vehicles can still get access.
The bollards will likely remain at both ends. On the street would be some type of event space, perhaps with a slightly raised stage for small concerts that could be moved to make room for a seating area or farmers market.
That area would be the focus of a new lawn, something Carmichael envisioned could hold maybe 100 people on picnic blankets or kids kicking a soccer ball.
Each concept has a better defined walkway starting at the Elm Street/Arlington Road corner, using some variation of short stairs and progressing diagonally through the park toward the Edgemoor side of Hampden Lane.
Option A shows a linear path made out of reused bluestone that would be intersected at a central gathering point by a path that starts at the southwest corner of the park. Option B includes a curved path and Option C includes a shorter path intersected by two straight, north-to-south paths.
The sculpture remains in all three designs, though it could be moved and could potentially hover over part of one of the walking paths. An existing pavilion could also stay, though the roof could be removed to relieve fears some have about illegal activity happening there after dark.
Much of the design was built around some of the Park’s older trees, including a mature, healthy oak tree. Carmichael said other trees could be moved around the park, including a Japanese Maple that could be incorporated into the playground as a climbing tree for smaller kids.
The illustrative designs presented Wednesday at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center may not be posted online for a few weeks, but Parks is looking for comments and input before it develops a preferred plan and comes up with a cost estimate this spring and summer.