Rockville may have an opportunity to expand its park system on the west side of town, but finding green space to preserve in neighborhoods to the southeast may prove an expensive challenge.
The city’s master plan calls for maintaining a ratio of 18 acres of parkland for every 1,000 city residents, but that may become more difficult as the city’s population grows.
The Rockville Planning Commission discussed the city’s goals for acquiring park land at a Wednesday meeting. The discussion was prompted by Rockville’s proposal to acquire land at 175 Watts Branch Parkway from the county to add it to an existing park on the western side of the city.
Commissioner Anne Goodman said she supports the Mayor and Council’s move to acquire the property.
“There is wildlife habitat there [and] there is forest that I would hate to be lost,” she said.
Commissioner David Hill said if the city can purchase the Watts Branch property, it would be a great opportunity at a great price. He has no problem with taking the opportunity to acquire park space, he said, but was concerned that it might impede progress on getting park space on the eastern side of town.
“I’m not trying to pit the east side of the city versus the west side, but the pie is only so big,” he said.
Rockville needs to get serious about addressing the imbalance of parks in different areas of the city, Hill said. The east side of the city has fewer parks than the west side, he said, but many people live there, and more residential development is expected.
If the city wants public space that includes grassy parks as well as the plazas and fountains that developers are likely to propose, it may have to purchase land in the Pike aea and convert it to parks, Hill said.
David Levy, chief of long-range planning, agreed that the city may have to buy land if it wants parks on the Pike corridor. He also said the ratio of parks to population will likely come up as the city works to revise its master plan.