Proposed upgrades would give Town Center an interim park

Goal is to create a usable space while Germantown waits for more complete plans several years from now

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Germantown community members are working to bring park benches and wood-chip paths to the grassy area behind the new library until a more formal park is built.

The county plans to turn the 6-acre open space into an urban park in 2013, which would be the last phase of Town Center. But some say leaving the open area unimproved for six more years is not acceptable.

So the Germantown Task Force, a committee of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, is devising an interim solution so the uneven, grassy area can be used as a park until construction begins. The park will eventually have two stormwater management ponds, bike trails and an amphitheater.

Marilyn Balcombe, president of the chamber, said the task force is working with the county to develop an interim plan for the area located behind the library and between BlackRock Center for the Arts on Town Commons Drive and Pinnacle Drive. She hopes that the interim park is usable by next spring.

‘‘The plan will take us from the end of library construction to the beginning of construction of the park,” Balcombe said. ‘‘Then we won’t have a gaping hole in Town Center.”

Windows in the library, which is scheduled to be complete in November, provide sweeping views of the park site.

That view could be nicer thanks to the interim plan being devised by task force member Douglas M. Wrenn of Rodgers Consulting in Town Center, who is doing the work at no cost.

Wrenn could not be reached for comment.

The task force will ask residents to help clean up the area during the county’s Community Service Day in October, Balcombe said.

The county recently mowed the area and cleaned up some of the garbage that had accumulated in the unused space, said Catherine E. Matthews, director of the Upcounty Regional Services Center.

The Department of Public Works and Transportation is checking into whether it will be able to provide additional upkeep for the park, but Matthews noted there are no funds for such work in the 2007 budget.

‘‘Whatever we do will be minimal,” she said Monday.

The park, to be situated on uneven terrain behind the library, presents some design and building challenges, including wetlands, two existing stormwater management facilities that need to be relocated and steep slopes.

The County Council approved $265,000 for the park’s planning and design work to begin in 2009 and $711,00 in 2010.

County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) did not include the money in his recommended budget, citing the need for further study into options for handling the stormwater management concerns, the bulk of the park’s nearly $9 million price tag.