Could artificial turf be just what community needs?

Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006

Forty years ago, the scientific philosopher Thomas Kuhn wrote that great things often happen by chance and not by design. When Montgomery County planners installed the SoftLawn artificial turf at the corner of Fenton and Ellsworth in Silver Spring they inadvertently created a popular and flexible community space. Used by folks of all ages to play, eat, sunbathe, listen to music or watch movies, the open space has pulled people together in a way that no contrived new urbanism experiment ever could.

Although the county considers the turf a placeholder for a future municipal development, I think county planners should step back — perhaps sit on the turf for a spell — and recalculate their plans. The turf has integrated well with the community and with the new businesses in the revitalized Silver Spring.

People move freely in both directions between the restaurants and stores and the turf making the turf a value-added benefit to business and a cost-effective public space.

Progress isn’t always tied to shiny new buildings and over-designed plazas and promenades. Sometimes, as Kuhn observed, an accidental discovery can pave they way to great achievements.

Let’s hope our leaders can recognize true progress when they see it.

David S. Rotenstein, Silver Spring