For more than 20 years, the Friends of Chevy Chase Circle has worked with the National Park Service to keep Chevy Chase’s gateway to the nation’s capital stocked with tulips and looking like an inviting park.
Now, as three prominent members of the group move on and maintenance appears to arrive less frequently, the Friends of Chevy Chase Circle is looking for a new batch of Chevy Chase residents to take up the cause. If not, the nonprofit that started in 1991 and raised more than $25,000 for improvements to the Circle might be dissolved.
“We feel it’s important to get some young blood who sees the park as we saw it 20 years ago, as a gateway to Washington and a source of pride for Chevy Chase,” said Friends of Chevy Chase President Barbara Price, who is moving into the District soon. “The idea was the Park Service was going to maintain it with additional monthly maintenance. That has diminished, even before sequestration. We need some new people to take on a new phase of stewardship.”
In the late 80′s and early 90′s, Price and other members of the group got donations from the Chevy Chase Land Company and other area businesses to pay for new plantings. They had a foundry in Canada produce a new fountainhead for the fountain in the middle of the Circle, which before was just a single spout of water shooting up into the air.
Under the auspices of the Chevy Chase Historical Society, the Friends of Chevy Chase Circle formed as its own nonprofit organization in 1991 and entered an Adopt a Park agreement with the National Park Service. It worked with a landscape architect from the Park Service, raised money for a new irrigation system and helped clean up the space.
Each year, it funds a new planting of about 2,000 tulips.
Price said lately, maintenance agreed upon with the Parks Service has been less frequent, and the Circle is reverting back to its pre-1991 days of neglect. The benches, for example, are in disrepair.
“It is kind of a slovenly accumulation of unkempt management,” Price said. “And it’s going to be worse than it looks now.”
With two other frequent members of the Friends group retiring from civic activities, Price is looking for someone to take over the group. The response so far has been quick. Price said two Chevy Chase residents called her on Tuesday morning, just after it was posted on a community listserv.
If you would like to speak with Price about the Friends of Chevy Chase Circle, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The future of Wall Park is important to many in White Flint who see it as the rapidly developing area’s central green space and perhaps one day home to concerts and festivals.
That makes it a strong candidate to be one of the first Montgomery Parks projects subject to a recently approved corporate sponsorship policy that could include any number of things related to programming, advertising, or naming.
“We have been involved in some conversations about the public-private partnership of Wall Park. Whether it’s a partnership or a sponsorship or a naming has yet to be determined,” said Kate Stookey, Montgomery Parks’ chief of public affairs and community partnerships. “There’s very likely to be some aspect of any of those in the development of Wall Park. We are very open to that.”
Montgomery Parks hopes to revamp and expand the existing Wall Local Park (4901 Nicholson Lane) with the new mixed-use residential and commercial developments of White Flint as the catalyst. The Planning Board approved the corporate sponsorship policy in January.
Stookey said the policy should help fund and pilot new programs by allowing for more frequent and widespread marketing of corporate sponsors that pitch in. Don’t expect a corporate sponsor to swoop in and acquire the naming rights to Wall Park.
Parks staff found other municipalities that have similar policies don’t really use it as a way to make up for tight budgets. Other areas generated between $100,000 and a little over $1 million with their sponsorships, which would only cover a small piece of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s budget for parks.
“We’re not seeing this as a way to replace tax funding because it can’t,” Stookey said. “But it is a way to generate revenue to enhance existing programs, to pilot new programs, to maybe fund community events that could then be free to the public.”
Plans for Wall Park would seem to fit naturally with that goal. Parks wants to transform it from 12 acres tucked behind the Shriver Aquatics Center and a 250-space parking lot to a great lawn, complete with activities and programming that would make it a destination for more than its swimming facilities.
Parks hopes to replace that parking by entering into a public-private deal with Atlanta-based developer Gables Residential, which plans to build 450 to 500 apartment units in three buildings on its property just north of Wall Park and the Aquatics Center. Gables so far has said it is on-board with the idea of including 250 parking spots (and another 150 for a planned recreation center) in its garage for the development.
But many factors are in play, including a new street grid for the area that has yet to get off the ground. Without a realigned Executive Boulevard as imagined in the White Flint Sector Plan, Gables can’t build the project it has designed.
Rachel Newhouse, a landscape architect and planner for Montgomery Parks, attended numerous meetings about Wall Park and the Gables development over the past few months in order to get community suggestions for features or programming. She said she would like to take the Concept Plan for the expanded park to the Planning Board at the same time Gables presents its Sketch Plan, which it’s expected to file in early June.
Montgomery County recently announced it will start posting advertisements in June in two Bethesda garages.
Map via Montgomery Parks
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services last week did a press conference to remind people not to attempt to swim in the Potomac River while visiting Great Falls National Park this spring and summer.
A day before, a team of MCFRS personnel was training on the river just as a group of four swimmers jumped in for a dip. The crew was able to rescue one swimmer who had become trapped by powerful currents under the water that often aren’t visible from the surface.
“It’s very inviting, especially when it starts to get hot so they want to try and get in cool off, and they think, ‘It doesn’t look so bad,’ and it’s deadly,” MCFRS Lieutenant Chief Moe Witt told County Cable Montgomery.
Personnel from MCFRS, the National Park Service, Park Police and Fairfax County Fire & Rescue said they regularly see people walking the trails or enjoying the park decide to jump into the water to cool off.
It’s not allowed in the Potomac River Gorge, the 14-mile stretch of the river from the Key Bridge to Great Falls in Potomac. Before Memorial Day, the authorities wanted to get the word out: Don’t jump into the Potomac.
Video via County Cable Montgomery
The developer of a proposed apartment complex just north of Wall Park and the Shriver Aquatic Center in North Bethesda faces a number of hurdles before construction can begin.
Besides the typical approval process, Atlanta-based developer Gables Residential must wait for Montgomery County to design and fund a new road network and work out an agreement with the Montgomery County Department of Parks on the funding and operation of a parking garage that would serve both apartment residents and Wall Park visitors.
Gables Regional Vice President Jorgen Punda and architects presented the Sketch Plan to community members in a required public meeting on Tuesday. The Sketch Plan envisions three 70-foot-tall apartment buildings that would include 450 to 500 units on top of 30,000 square feet of ground floor retail, courtyards and a parking garage.
That garage is a key part of the developer’s plan and the future of Wall Park, which the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan envisions as the major park and green space for a rapidly developing White Flint. The area today includes a small park, the Shriver Aquatic Center and 250 parking spaces.
Punda said the company has agreed to reserve 250 parking spots in its garage for Montgomery Parks and another 150 spaces to accomodate a future planned recreation center. The existing 250 spaces in the park would be replaced with park functions that are still being designed.
Park planner coordinator Rachel Newhouse took suggestions for possible park features during the meeting.
Attorney Stephen Kaufman, who is representing Gables out of Bethesda-based firm Linowes and Blocher, said the plan is for Gables to provide the land for the garage. It would be up to Montgomery County to pay for its construction. Kaufman suggested the county could use payments Gables will have to make into a general development fund.
Newhouse said Parks hopes to go to the Planning Board at the same time Gables does with a concept plan for the park. The garage will include about 590 spaces reserved for residents and retail use.
It appears neither can go forward without a resolution to the Western Workaround. Gables can only start the project once Executive Boulevard is realigned and Market Street is built, making the existing triangular lot into a bigger rectangular one.
Montgomery County has been negotiating with the State Highway Administration on design aspects of the new street grid’s intersections. The county must also purchase important right-of-way from the vacant car dealerships on the south side of Old Georgetown Road, a process Kaufman said the developer hopes will accelerate when it files its Sketch Plan in June.
Once construction starts, Punda said it should be 18 to 20 months until the apartments are completed. But it’s uncertain when all of the elements — new Wall Park, shared parking garage and new street network — will come together.
“The project can’t be built unless the roads are in place,” Kaufman said. “We’re looking at 2016 or the year after. Either it’s going to happen by then, or White Flint is going to be in big trouble.”
Images via Gables Residential
Superintendent Talks Math Exam Failure Rates — MCPS superintendent Joshua Starr spoke about the county’s surprisingly high failure rates on math final exams and what the school system is doing to more effectively teach its students math. [Fox 5]
Josiah Henson Hearing Planned For June 6 — Those who want to testify in front of the Planning Board as it reviews the plan for a museum at the Josiah Henson house should sign up on the Planning Board website. The facility would include a welcome center, 60-seat multi-purpose multimedia room, new displays and the Riley Cabin. The Planning Board will review the plan during its Thursday, June 6 session at a to-be-determined time. [Montgomery Parks]
Bikeway Construction Starts On MacArthur Boulevard — Construction began last week on improvements to a new shared-use bikeway on MacArthur Boulevard from the Beltway to just south of Glen Echo Park. Construction is slated to be completed by early 2015, at which point Montgomery County will start work on improvements south of Glen Echo Park to the D.C. line. [Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center]
It’s the first step in getting permitting and construction approval for the unique project, which Chevy Chase leaders helped fund to provide a green space on the edge of very urban Friendship Heights.
The two-acre property, bordered by Grove Street and Western Avenue, used to have a single-family home. Chevy Chase Village contributed $1.25 million of the $5 million purchase price of the land and half of the cost for demolishing the house ($39,000). The deal is a rare Parks partnership with a municipality.
Last year, Chevy Chase village approved a Concept Plan for the park, which proposed a main pedestrian walkway, woodlawn walkway, picnic plaza, great lawn, natural play area and mix of gardens.
Now the County Planning Board will begin its approval process. The hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Image via Montgomery County Planning Department
Whitman Senior Wins Congressional Art Award — Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s office announced Walt Whitman High School senior Kai Valencia as the winner of this year’s Congressional art contest, organized by the Capitol Arts Network. Valencia’s acrylic painting will be displayed with winning entries from other Congressional districts in the U.S. Capitol for a year. Two hundred students from 26 schools in the 8th Congressional District entered the contest. [Rep. Chris Van Hollen]
California Tortilla Offering ‘Virtual Pinata’ For Cinco de Mayo — The fast casual burrito chain’s website will have a virtual pinata from Friday through Sunday which customers can swing at for prizes including free chips and queso and catering for 20. The flagship CalTor location in Bethesda (4871 Cordell Ave.) will offer coupons for a free taco for next week. [California Tortilla via Facebook]
Wall Park Expansion Might ‘Take A While’ — County Parks planners hope to expand Wall Park, home of the Shriver Aquatic Center, into a major park that will serve the growing White Flint area. Gables Residential, the developer that owns land for a potential parking garage that would serve the park, wants the county to put the new roads planned in the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan into the capital budget. [The Gazette]
DC Yoga Week — Many Bethesda area yoga studios are taking part in the event, with some offering free and $5 classes during the next few days leading up to a large yoga session on the National Mall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. [DC Community Yoga]
Flickr photo by sylmellon
County Faces Potential $300 Million Budget Deficit In FY 15 — Pay raises that would cost Montgomery $100 million over two years and uncertain tax revenues could put the county in a tough spot next budget season. The County Council is weighing the pay increases for county employees proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). [Washington Examiner]
The New Wall Park — Known for its aquatics center, Wall Park in North Bethesda (at Nicholson Lane and Executive Boulevard) is set to become the “primary recreational destination” for a redeveloped White Flint. [Friends of White Flint]
Montgomery Community Media Capturing “A Day In The Life” — Montgomery Community Media is asking county residents to submit photos and video from Monday, April 22 to help capture what a day in the life of Montgomery County is. [MyMCMedia]
Flickr pool photo by AmyMarieMoore
UPDATED 1:35 p.m. on Friday A judge today threw out a lawsuit from nearby residents who hoped to block MCPS from reclaiming a local park and building a middle school on it.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Ronald Rubin ruled in favor of the school system, which wants to build a second middle school at Rock Creek Hills Local Park (3701 Saul Rd.) to accomodate overcrowding at Westland Middle School and the planned reassignment of Grade 6 students from Chevy Chase and North Chevy Chase Elementary Schools.
Members of the Save The Rock Creek Hills Park group and the surrounding Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association have sought to block the school and maintain the 13.4-acre park that the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) acquired from the Board of Education in 1990.
School opponents argued that the use of Program Open Space funds to improve the park was inconsistent with the reclamation terms of the transfer agreement under which the M-NCPPC took title to the property. The Planning Board also recommended against placing the school on the site of the park.
Rubin issued a declaratory judgment, stating ”neither the deed or the transfer agreement violated federal or state law. No statute has been violated.”
“This suit always struck me as incredibly frivolous,” said Rafe Petersen, a PTA Board member of Rosemary Hills Primary School with three kids in the school cluster. Petersen was also part of the original site selection committee. “A lot of us think it’s a little bit selfish of the people in that neighborhood. This after all is public land.”
MCPS is planning for the middle school to open in August 2017.
“This is really about our kids and any other further delays are only going to harm our children,” said Fritz Hirst, a cluster parent and another member of the site selection committee. “But I think all people of goodwill should realize that this school should move forward.”
John Robinson, president of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association, said his group was disappointed by the decision and is considering an appeal.
Photo via Montgomery Parks
Neighbors of the park (3701 Saul Rd.) and members of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association have vociferously challenged the MCPS decision to build there at virtually every step, prompting superintendent Joshua Starr to start a new site selection process, filing an unsuccessful appeal with the Maryland State Board of Education and last September filing suit in county court.
MCPS claims it can build on the park because the Board of Education owns it. It is the site of a former MCPS school, but the school system transferred the land to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC).
In November 2011, Starr said one of the reasons for starting a new site selection process was concern about the M-NCPPC’s use of open space funds to improve the park in the early 1990′s:
When the M-NCPPC developed the park in the early 1990s they accepted funds from the Program Open Space (POS). This is a program managed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to distribute funds from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to preserve open space.
The use of Program Open Space funds was inconsistent with the reclamation terms of the transfer agreement under which the M-NCPPC took title to the property. This was the case since use of these funds places restrictions on future public use of parks, in contradiction with the terms of the original transfer agreement.
After the second site selection process, Starr recommended the site and the Board of Education approved it in April of 2012. The Save The Rock Creek Hills Park group then filed the suit that will again be discussed tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Circuit Court.
Opponents of the middle school on the park site want to preserve the land for park uses. In 2011, the Montgomery County Planning Board raised concerns about using park land for new school sites.
As the episode has played out, Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster parents foremost concerned with overcrowding in the cluster, have seemingly grown weary of the process. At a Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board meeting on Monday, one was dismissive of the lawsuit when discussing overcrowding with MCPS planner Bruce Crispell.
MCPS is planning for the new middle school to open in August 2017 to deal with over-enrollment at Westland Middle School and the reassignment of Grade 6 students from Chevy Chase and North Chevy Chase Elementary Schools.
Westland received a six-classroom addition in the 2009-2010 school year, but as the only middle school in the cluster was 136 students over its 1,063 capacity this year. Crispell said MCPS is projecting 1,600 middle school students in the cluster when the Grade 6 reassignments are made.
Montgomery Parks officials hope to have a revamped Willard Avenue Neighborhood Park finished by this summer, a refreshing development for many who gathered on Thursday night in Friendship Heights at a public meeting.
Parks planners and residents agreed the Park, now 24 years old, isn’t used as much as it could be and suffers from a lack of visibility. Parks had to remove the old playground because it had rotted out. The Park, near the intersection of River Road and Willard Avenue, sits in a flood plain and includes steep slopes and a stream.
Parks presented two options for replacing the playground and providing new exercise equipment along the existing trail. The department of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission will also clear out some space along River Road to make the park more visible.
Most residents seemed against the idea of an expanded parking lot that they said would allow the 5.1-acre space draw from a wider area. One man suggested a turf soccer field. A group of teenagers asked about the possibility of a small skate park, perhaps similar to the skatepark at the Woodside Urban Park in Silver Spring.
Park Project Manager Kathy Dearstine said staff would look into that possibility. The small basketball court is slated to remain.
Photo via Montgomery Parks
UPDATE 4:14 p.m. An animal rights group today released information and started a petition about a deer in Wheaton near Brookside Gardens that it says survived a bullet to the face during a Montgomery Parks deer hunt. The group has started an effort to get Montgomery Parks to stop its deer management program.
ORIGINAL STORY Montgomery County’s Deer Management Program has allowed for the killing of more than 5,500 deer in each of the last several hunting seasons, yet the number of reported deer-vehicle collisions and probable cases of Lyme disease have remained steady.
In a meeting of the County Council’s Public Safety Committee on Thursday morning, Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Roger Berliner and government officials discussed potential steps to curbing the number of incidents typically associated with a large deer population.
Much of the discussion revolved around legislation in the General Assembly that would allow bow hunters to hunt up to 50 yards from homes instead of the current 150-yard regulation. Rob Gibbs, who runs the county’s deer management program with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said that legislation wouldn’t effect his program much. Park and Planning uses Park Police sharpshooters.
Those sharpshooters recently finished a deer kill in a Chevy Chase section of Rock Creek Park in which Gibbs said they killed 30 deer. Montgomery Parks estimated the deer population in the area was three times the recommended density, which it said led to damage to natural resources, deer-related car accidents and the increased potential of Lyme disease.
“The program in Rock Creek went like clockwork,” Gibbs said. “We’re very pleased with how well it went, particularly the interaction with the public. We didn’t receive any calls.”
Post Fitness Columnist: Capital Crescent Trail With Purple Line Wouldn’t Be The Same — Washington Post fitness columnist Lenny Bernstein praises the Capital Crescent Trail as a unique running and cycling route for such an urban area, one that he feels wouldn’t be as attractive if reduced to a 12-foot-wide paved path alongside the planned Purple Line light rail. [Washington Post]
State Public Service Commission Orders Utilities To Improve Reliability — The Maryland Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities such as the oft-criticized Pepco electric company, on Wednesday issued an order for utilities to come up with a reliability improvement plan by May 31, among other improvements. [The Gazette]
Reminder: Willard Avenue Park Meeting Tonight — Montgomery Parks is hosting a public meeting to discuss its planned changes for the Willard Avenue Neighborhood Park, set for tonight at 7 p.m. [Montgomery Parks]
Montgomery’s Office of Consumer Protection To Join In On ‘Consumer Protection Week’ — Montgomery County’s Office of Consumer Protection, one of just two county-level consumer protection agencies in Maryland, will celebrate its 40 years with a variety of events during next week’s “National Consumer Protection Week.” [Montgomery County]
Flickr photo by vpickering
Montgomery Parks on Thursday will hold an open community meeting to discuss proposed playground renovations and upgrades to the Willard Avenue Neighborhood Park near the intersection of Willard Avenue and River Road in Chevy Chase.
Parks wants to put in a new playground, improve visibility of the park from River Road and add new exercise equipment along the trail. The 5.1-acre park was acquired by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in 1977.
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Village Center (4433 South Park Ave., Chevy Chase) and those interested will soon be able to provide input online at ParkProjects.org. For contact information, see Parks’ public notice for the meeting.
Image via Montgomery Parks
Montgomery Parks staff and consultants on Monday outlined plans for a Josiah Henson museum that will focus on the life of the famous escaped slave and examine the context of slavery in Montgomery County.
In the hour-long presentation at Tilden Middle School, Parks project managers, the project architect and the person hired to design the exhibits spoke about their plans to design a state-of-the-art museum on a relatively tiny 1.5-acre parcel of land on Old Georgetown Road.
They also discussed potential parking issues and the exhibit’s compatibility with MCPS lesson plans. They expect a large share of museum visitors will be students on field trips.
“We know we want to tie the storyline tightly to what these teachers are addressing,” said Larissa Hallgren, who is helping to design the exhibits out of the Boston-based Experience Design company. “We want a site that’s going to we hope be essential for our social studies teachers so it will fit neatly into their curriculum.”