Residents prefer low-key park for Town Center
Sep. 17, 2003
Ellen Shiau
Staff Writer

A safe and quiet refuge topped the wish list of ideas generated by community members who attended a forum last week to discuss building a new park in the heart of Germantown Town Center.

About 30 residents gathered at a public meeting Sept. 9 to discuss the future of the 4-acre parcel between Locbury and Pinnacle drives near BlackRock Center for the Arts and the yet-to-be-built Germantown Library.

The meeting marked the first step in the planning process of the park that is estimated to be completed in two to three years.

Landscape architect Mark Gionet of Lewis Scully Gionet said factors involved in planning a good park include its location, the compatibility with the surrounding area and what the public wants.

"We really don't have any particular agenda yet for the park," he said.

"What we want to do is get your ideas," Gionet told community members. "Those really will be what we use to start putting together the next round of, 'Here's what we think might work.'"

Some of the site's limitations include the presence of two existing storm water management ponds and a wetland area, Gionet said. "There's a good chunk of the site related to or constrained by water," he said.

However, the design could include placing storm water management features underground to create more land space if the public desires it, Gionet said.

Gionet broke the crowd into five groups to brainstorm and vote on favorite ideas.

Community members presented the most popular ideas from each group to the entire assembly, and another round of voting whittled down the list further.

In one brainstorming group, a wide spectrum of ideas emerged from some wanting to preserve the natural state of the property to others with grander ideas.

Brett Silbert, who lives in a townhouse near the park, placed almost all his voting power into keeping the land as is with just the addition of trees.

"It's just such a small area, and they're building this because it's a water management center. They're not going to change it from a 1-foot swamp to a 5-foot lake," he said.

In contrast, Wayne Wille of Churchill Village South proffered suggestions from paved trails from all directions to an outdoor amphitheater to fountains.

"The point is, I think you have to do something if it's a swamp now. I think it would be nice if it ends up being a lake," he said.

The ideas that withstood the final voting process among the entire group revolved around protecting the park's adjacent neighborhoods.

Residents wanted to guard the neighborhood from traffic primarily generated by the future library but also the park.

Several residents of the townhouses on Celebration Way adjacent to the park attended the meeting to voice concerns about the connection of the library's parking lot to Celebration Way.

The community also favored creating a clear boundary between the park and the neighborhood. The also suggested including adequate lighting to keep the park safe.

Other popular notions included creating a botanical garden similar to the Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, a sculpture garden with meandering paths, a town square with an elaborate pavilion, or a place with benches and paths for quiet reading and strolling.

"Some of these may be mutually exclusive; some of these will work well together," Gionet said after the meeting.

The landscape architects will take the community's ideas and design several options for the park, he said.

Those designs will be presented and discussed at a second community meeting this winter, said project manager Patricia McManus of the Montgomery County Department of Park and Planning.

A final plan probably will go before the Montgomery County Planning Board before the end of June for approval and incorporation into Park and Planning's construction budget, McManus said.

Residents unable to attend the meeting can submit ideas and concerns about the project to McManus.

"Now it's incumbent on us to turn this into something exciting for the neighborhood," Gionet said.

To submit ideas about the proposed Germantown Town Center Local Park, write to project manager Patricia McManus at M-NCPPC, 9500 Brunett Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20901; e-mail; or call 301-495-3580.