Planning Board discusses adapting parks and recreation facilities to increase access in urban areas during latest Thrive Montgomery 2050 work session

February 11, 2021

Thrive Montgomery 2050

Board members provide feedback on chapter dedicated to Parks and recreation recommendations of the draft plan and preview the Complete Communities chapter outline scheduled for the eighth work session

WHEATON, MD – The Montgomery County Planning Board, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), held their seventh work session on Thursday, February 11 on the update to the county’s General Plan, known as Thrive Montgomery 2050. During the virtual meeting, board members discussed the General Plan’s chapter, “Parks and recreation for an increasingly urban and diverse community: active and social.” This revised chapter is about adapting the county’s park and recreation facilities and programs to serve a more diverse, urban community in ways that encourage social interaction and vigorous physical activity while continuing to help achieve the county’s environmental goals.

Montgomery County is nationally recognized for its award-winning parks and innovative recreation programs, run by Montgomery Parks, part of M-NCPPC. Montgomery Parks manages 37,000 acres of parkland featuring 424 parks. The department has long been a leader in adopting forward-thinking policies for the preservation of land and environmental stewardship. Like other aspects of planning, however, the success of the county’s approach to parks, recreation, and open space must continue to evolve to meet changing needs.

Parks are essential to creating vibrant, healthy, economically competitive, and complete communities.

However, many of the county’s parks are not currently accessible to community members in urban areas without the use of a car. One of the key recommendations in Thrive Montgomery 2050 is to prioritize the creation of high-quality urban parks that are accessible to pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. This is important because parks invite people of all ages, cultures, incomes, and interests to gather and build a sense of community. The update to the General Plan also recommends integrating park trails and paths into transportation planning to better connect residents to jobs and centers of activity.

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy our award-winning parks,” said Jai Cole, Park Planning and Stewardship Division Chief. “Parks play a major role in Montgomery County’s environmental sustainability and support an active, healthy lifestyle. The pandemic has even further demonstrated how critical access to outdoor space is for recreation and exercise, especially in urban areas.”

Thrive Montgomery 2050 reaffirms Montgomery Parks’ commitment to resource conservation, stewardship, and sustainability practices. It calls for selectively acquiring additional land to protect sensitive natural resources, improve water quality, and achieve other environmental goals. The update to the county’s General Plan also advises increasing access to opportunities for vigorous physical activity through new facilities and programs. This is especially important to improve health outcomes and the quality of life for people of color who suffer from higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

“The Parks Department is in the early stages of grappling with what it means to serve a more urbanized community with programs and facilities that help encourage vigorous physical activity and social connection while continuing to play a central role in environmental stewardship,” said Casey Anderson, chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board. “A reimagined and expanded conception of the role of parks and recreation in our community is long overdue.”

As a follow-up from previous Thrive Montgomery work sessions, Montgomery Planning staff presented revised drafts of the General Plan’s Introduction, Housing and Transportation chapters that incorporated the Planning Board’s comments.

In preparation for the next Thrive Montgomery work session, Montgomery Planning staff highlighted the February 18 outline topic, “Complete communities: mix of uses and forms.” This chapter covers the establishment of neighborhoods that optimize land use and offer a variety of housing types located near transit, workplaces, goods and services, public amenities, and active park spaces.

View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 February 11, 2021 Planning Board staff report
View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Parks and Recreation chapter
View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Parks and Recreation presentation
View the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Complete Communities chapter outline

Thrive Montgomery 2050 Planning Board work session schedule

Below is the remaining schedule for the Planning Board’s review of Thrive Montgomery 2050. Please visit thrivemontgomery.com for updates on the specific topics to be covered in future work sessions; the topic assigned for each work session is tentative and may change. Check the Planning Board’s website for staff reports for these work sessions.

  • Thursday, February 18: Work session #8 — Complete communities: mix of uses and forms, Revised (redlined) drafts of the Design, Arts and Culture, and Compact Growth chapters.
  • Thursday, February 25: Work session #9 –- Section 3: How the ideas in this Plan can be implemented. Implementation chapter, Conclusion with indicators for the three major outcomes.
  • Thursday, March 4: Work session #10 –- Planning Board to approve the final recommendations, Revised (redlined) drafts of the remaining chapters, and Actions list as a separate document. Discuss any follow up items from previous work sessions.
  • Thursday, April 8: Planning Board scheduled to approve Planning Board Draft of Thrive Montgomery 2050 for transmittal to the County Executive and County Council.

For more information, visit thrivemontgomery.com or sign up for our e-letter for updates.

Thrive Montgomery 2050 Outline

At the December 17, 2020 meeting, the Planning Board approved a new outline for the Thrive Montgomery 2050 General Plan document consisting of the following chapters:

Section 1

  • Why do we need a new comprehensive plan for the county?
  • Three overarching objectives
    • Economic performance & competitiveness
    • Racial & Social Equity & Inclusion
    • Environmental resilience & sustainability
  • Other important goals:
    • Elevating design and role of arts and culture
    • Public health and active lifestyles
    • Better access to amenities for high quality of life

Section 2: Thrive Montgomery 2050 Themes

  • Compact Growth: Corridor-Focused Development
  • Complete Communities: Mix of Uses and Forms
  • Transportation and Communication Networks: Connecting People, Places and Ideas
  • Affordable and Attainable Housing: More of Everything
  • Design, Arts and Culture: Adding Value and Building Community
  • Parks and Recreation for an Increasingly Urban and Diverse Community: Active and Social

Section 3: Implementation

Appendix: consolidated Actions Appendix.

Community participation and next steps

Community members can continue to provide comments on the draft Thrive Montgomery 2050 Plan for the Planning Board’s review while they conduct work sessions in January and February 2021. After the Planning Board votes to transmit the Planning Board Draft Plan to the County Council in early April, the County Council will hold their own public hearing, work sessions and final approval.

Members of the public may submit written comments to Casey Anderson, chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board. The mailing address is 2425 Reedie Drive, Wheaton, Maryland 20902; the e-mail address is mcp-chair@mncppc-mc.org; the fax number is (301) 495-1320. Individuals or groups may send comments at any time; comments received by noon of the day prior to each work session will be sent to the Planning Board for review at that work session.

Thrive Montgomery 2050 resources

Below are links to the Public Hearing Draft Plan, Outreach Appendix and at-a-glance information on the plan in English as well as in multiple languages.

Community Engagement

Over the summer, Montgomery Planning hosted several virtual community engagement sessions— even during this time of social distancing—on the initial Thrive Montgomery 2050 Policies and Actions Draft released in June to obtain feedback that was included in the Thrive Montgomery 2050 Working Draft Plan that was published in September.

Montgomery Planning held the Ask Me Anything virtual townhalls that Planning Director Wright hosted in May. Planning staff then invited the community to participate in the June Thrive Montgomery 2050 Virtual Community Chats. Each chat offered community members a chance to converse online with Planning staff about policy recommendations related to planning for the future of the county’s housing, transportation, economy, environment and more. View all of the distance engagement events for Thrive Montgomery 2050.

About Thrive Montgomery 2050

During summer 2019, the Montgomery County Planning Department launched the update of Montgomery County’s General Plan, the county’s long-term framework for land use and development. This effort, called Thrive Montgomery 2050, will result in new countywide policies to help Montgomery County thrive in the decades to come by addressing challenges and opportunities. A lot has changed in the county since the General Plan was originally approved in 1964. Thrive Montgomery 2050 will guide future growth in response to the demographic shifts, technological innovations, changing lifestyles and economic disruptions that have taken place in recent decades. The new General Plan will consider many issues framed by three pillars: economic health, environmental resilience and equity. This framework will help guide the recommendations of the plan with input from the community.