Montgomery County Parks and Planning Departments Presented their Fall 2019 Semiannual Report to the Montgomery County Council on October 22
October 22, 2019
Report highlights plans and projects completed over past six months to support community equity, economic health and environmental resilience in the county
SILVER SPRING, MD – The Montgomery Parks and Montgomery Planning Departments, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, presented their Fall 2019 Semiannual Report to the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday, October 22, 2019. The report showcases key projects, park activities and plans from the past six months, and initiatives that will be completed over the next six months and beyond.
Director of Montgomery Parks Mike Riley introduced the report by discussing the efforts to provide new parks and updated amenities to communities across the county. Among these initiatives are enhancing the more than 250 miles of natural surface and paved trails, and activating communities with new types of events that draw people into our parks.
Planning Director Gwen Wright then explained how the three themes of the ongoing General Plan Update, titled Thrive Montgomery 2050, are guiding the Department’s work. “Community equity, economic health and environmental resilience are key to the Thrive effort and are reflected through other plans and projects,” Wright said. “Implementing Vision Zero policy to eliminate traffic fatalities throughout our community, partnering on community-led placemaking efforts and continuing our agritourism study and tree-planting programs – all of our work aims to improve the quality of life in the county for everyone.”
Montgomery Planning’s Notable Achievements
The Fall 2019 Semiannual Report highlights the following accomplishments achieved by the Planning Department over the past six months and initiatives planned for 2020:
Thrive Montgomery 2050
The seminal planning guide for Montgomery County, the General Plan, was adopted in the 1960s and is being updated in 2019 to reflect and proactively plan for demographic, technological and social changes in our communities. This effort is called Thrive Montgomery 2050 and draws on community feedback gathered at events held all around the county in summer and fall 2019.
- Montgomery County’s Vision Zero policy to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries by 2030 is being implemented through several plans. The Aspen Hill Vision Zero Study and Forest Glen/Montgomery Hills Sector Plan recommend ways of improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety and better connecting neighborhoods along busy arterial roads.
- The Pedestrian Master Plan was launched in fall 2019 to improve walking conditions countywide for all who travel on foot and by wheelchair, scooter and mobility devices.
- Montgomery Planning helped to organize a symposium at the University of Maryland to examine the Austrian model of social housing and its lessons for Montgomery County. Preservation of existing affordable housing is the subject of an ongoing research study.
- Recent community-focused efforts to turn parking lots into places include the Long Branch Festival Week, held in September 2019, and the Burtonsville Placemaking Festival held in October 2019. Montgomery Planning partnered with Montgomery Parks and community groups and volunteers to create pop-up public spaces in Long Branch and Burtonsville, and demonstrate tangible ways of achieving plan goals and improving local economies.
- The Subdivision Staging Policy is updated every four years to ensure public facilities, particularly schools and roads, are adequate to meet the needs of new development and growth. The 2020 Subdivision Staging Policy is now underway with the assistance of the new Schools Technical Advisory Team, a group of county residents who will share their knowledge of neighborhood schools with planners through February 2020. The Transportation Impact Study Technical Working Group (TISTWG) also serves in an advisory role to provide feedback and recommendations on the transportation elements of the Subdivision Staging Policy. The TISTWG consists of key stakeholders in the Local Area Transportation Review process, including staff representing the Planning Department, Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, Maryland State Highway Administration and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, as well as representatives of civic groups and private development community.
- The Agritourism Study will be completed this winter to address increasing interest in agricultural education, tourism and entertainment in the county’s Agricultural Reserve. It looks at ways to support economic opportunities with a direct connection to agriculture in this area, including farm-to-table activities and event venues.
- The new Burial Sites Inventory and Guidelines are being maintained by Montgomery Planning’s Historic Preservation Office to ensure cemeteries and gravesites are identified during the development review process. Community meetings were held in April 2019 to inform the public about the inventory and guidelines, and receive feedback from attendees.
- The state of Maryland’s Interstate 495 and Interstate 270 Managed Lanes Study is currently focused on analysis of the seven alternatives retained for detailed study (ARDS) and determining whether the MD 200 (Intercounty Connector) diversion alternative meets the purpose and need for inclusion in the ARDS. Analysis of the ARDS includes work by Montgomery Planning and Parks on avoidance, minimization and mitigation of negative impacts on parkland from the ARDS that include two lanes in each direction.
- Montgomery Planning is partnering with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation to develop a Complete Streets Design Guide and Roadway Functional Classification System. The guide will create a one-stop shop for all aspects of street design and address best practices in fire access and stormwater management. Both documents will make street design as part of the development review process clearer and more predictable.
- In August 2019, a new staff member joined Montgomery Planning to coordinate all forest and tree-planting programs. The Planning Department recently partnered with the Montgomery Countryside Alliance for a tree planting pilot through this coordinated effort.
Montgomery Parks’ Notable Achievements
The Fall 2019 Semiannual Report highlights the following accomplishments, achieved by the Department of Parks over the past six months and programs planned for 2020:
- Continuing efforts on creating a world class trail system, comprising 190 miles of natural surface trails and 70 miles of paved trails, by adding new equipment, new trail elements and segments, more trail volunteers and a new trail program manager.
- Renovating athletic fields at 35 Montgomery County Public Schools over the next four years to improve quality and ensure proper maintenance.
- Activating communities by hosting new exciting events in parks, such as free salsa lessons, free concerts and movie nights, free Zumba classes, as well as participating in several placemaking programs.
- Several major park openings, including the Parks Department’s first dedicated cricket field at South Germantown Recreational Park, a renovated state-of-the-art inline hockey rink supported through a partnership with the Washington Capitals and a new park adjacent to the new Wheaton Library and Recreation Center.