The Rockville Mayor and Council recently engaged the Novak Consulting Group (who aided in the search for the new city manager) to help refine their list of 23 priorities created in 2016—far too many to get things done. As a result, the Mayor and Council identified the priorities among their priorities, coming up with a list of twelve which are overwhelmingly focused on city planning and development, and may just be wishful thinking: Continue reading →
It’s fall in Rockville and if you haven’t enjoyed it enough, head out to Lake Frank east of town. Created by Montgomery County to control flooding along Rock Creek in the 1970s, it’s an off-the-beaten path destination for those who love nature, walking, birdwatching, and dog walking. Today was especially nice because the trees are at their peak and their colors are reflected in the water–and we only ran into a half dozen people in the hour we were there.
Enter from Avery Road (near Southlawn) and you’ll find a small parking lot leading to a paved path that goes around about a third of the lake. If you’re walking or on a bike, you can also enter from the Rock Creek Trail just north of Norbeck Road.
One of the best things in Rockville are the parks. One of the best things near Rockville are the parks–and one of the best is Brookside, a county-owned horticultural garden just a few miles south of town near Glenmont. It features a variety of garden types, including Japanese, walled, rose, and naturalistic and while it’s fun to visit throughout the year, spring brings out a long display of flowers. Right now, the daffodils and cherry trees are at peak but will soon be followed by tulips and azaleas. If you visit on the weekends, I recommend arriving before 11 am (gates open at sunrise). Don’t forget that enjoying nature isn’t a luxury, it’s essential for mental fitness.
“Walkability” is an increasingly popular measure of a community’s quality of life. By enhancing the convenience and ease of walking, it reduces traffic, improves health, increases community involvement, and puts more eyes on the street for safety. So how does Rockville rate? Walk Score calculates walkability on a block-by-block basis, generating color-coded maps. In the map of Rockville, green indicates the areas that are most walkable (such as downtown) and red the least walkable (such as Horizon Hill west of 270). Around town, they’ve calculated how the following locations fared on a scale of 1-100:
- 85 Very walkable: Maryland Avenue and South Adams (West End)
- 75 Very walkable: Baltimore Road and Grandin (East Rockville)
- 66 Somewhat walkable: Twinbrook Parkway and Viers Mill (Twinbrook)
- 65 Somewhat walkable: Fallsgrove Boulevard and Fallsgrove Road (Fallsgrove)
- 65 Somewhat walkable: Redland Boulevard and Pleasant (King Farm)
- 63 Somewhat walkable: West Montgomery and Laird (West End)
- 48 Car dependent: College Parkway and Princeton (College Gardens)
- 35 Car dependent: Falls Road and Kersey (Horizon Hill)
I’m sure this will generate controversy and prompt comparisons between neighborhoods (what!? Twinbrook rated the same as Fallsgrove and King Farm? Not possible!) but I’d really like to encourage a discussion about making our community more bike and pedestrian (and sometimes car) friendlier.
What makes a neighborhood walkable? According to Walk Score, the more of the following characteristics it has, the better:
- A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
- People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
- Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
- Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
- Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
- Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
- Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.
The City of Rockville recently received federal funds to develop “complete streets” near the Twinbrook and Rockville Metro stations, so scores for those locations (and pedestrians using those locations) should improve as a result. Any suggestions to make your neighborhood more walkable? Should walkability be a goal for Rockville?
If you enjoy gardens, there’s no better place around here than Brookside Gardens, a fifty-acre horticultural showplace maintained by Montgomery Parks (aka Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission). It’s a wonderful place to enjoy all year but especially in the spring when blooming azaleas pack the woods are packed and tulips fill the beds (although with today’s brisk winds, who knows what will survive).
Brookside is free and open from sunrise to sunset, but on beautiful days you’ll want to arrive well before noon to find a parking spot. It’s only 10-15 minutes away from Rockville but it can be a bit hard to find the first time since it’s tucked inside a residential neighborhood . To get there, go straight down Viers Mill Road towards DC, turn left on Randolph Road (at the Korean Korner) and after you cross Georgia Avenue (where the Kensington Volunteer Fire Station is located), look for Glenallan Avenue and turn right into the neighborhood and follow it around to the entrance to the Gardens. A great place to get away, take kids, or enjoy with guests, and if you’re really into gardens, they offer classes and a library in the visitor center.
At the November 22, 2009 inauguration of the current City Council, Phyllis Marcucchio opened her speech as the newly seated Mayor with the following words:
In keeping with my campaign issues, where I called for bringing citizens into the decision-making process, there are a number of actions I will propose during my administration which I hope the Council will support and which I believe will move our hometown safely and thoughtfully into a more citizen-driven future. Here are a few of those initiatives.
Over the next five minutes, she laid out a half dozen promises around financial management, charter reform, communications, citizen engagement, the environment, and others. Now that she’s nearing the end of her first term as mayor and hoping to be elected to another, I’ll examine each of these over the next few months to see how’s she fared (and if possible, where the other council members and candidates stand as well and include some of my own analysis). Of course, you’ll be invited to share your opinions but because the election season can provoke stronger and sharper words, I’ll be placing a stronger hand on the rudder to keep us on topic (you’ll want to review the rules for commenting on this blog if you’re unsure what I mean). I am also closing comments after a period of 30-60 days so that we can move the conversation along.
Usually this type of post goes up on January 1, but I always prefer a bit of distance to identify the biggest stories of past year. Although this is admittedly from my limited personal perspective and is bound to generate controversy (but hey, that’s what these lists are supposed to do), here’s my list for Rockville in 2010:
1. Red Gate Golf Course. This is continued to be a thorny issue and made have seen its thorniest moment when the City Council used $2.4 million in “surplus” money to pay off past debt and the anticipated shortfalls for 2011, and also (once again) punted the decision to another time. Despite countless meetings and studies, for years the Council has been astonishingly agonized about making a decision on whether to commit to an annual subsidy, integrate it into the recreation program, levy a tax to support it, or to close it down. Meanwhile, the golf course continues to bleed money and participation rates continue to slide. Perhaps we need to start over: if we were offered 130 acres today (Red Gate is the second largest park in Rockville), what would most benefit the community? I don’t think most people would say golf course.
2. Snowpocalypse. Who can forget this snowstorm? There was so much snow it closed the federal government for a week. The adventurous walked and explored the city in a new quiet way and neighbors found a new reason to talk and help each other. There was a lot of frustration with snow clearing and the City wasn’t prepared, but remember, the city worked around the clock and conscripted employees into snowshoveling duties to deal with this record snowfall. We also improved our abilities to monitor and respond to these situations so when this happens again (and it may not be for another fifty years), we’re prepared. And someone at the City gets two stars for Continue reading →
In addition to Rockville Central and Rockville Living, Rockville Patch provides another online source of news and information about our fair city. Patch is based in New York City and operates throughout the country, working in communities of 15-100K population that are “underserved by media and would benefit by having access to local news and information about government, schools and business”. Each “Patch” is run by professional editors, writers, photographers, and videographers who live in or near the communities they serve and for the Rockville version includes nearly two dozen editors and contributors, including Sean Sedam, Lauren Sausser, Jillian Badanes, and Nathan Carrick (in case you run into them at an event). They’ve been operating in Rockville since October 2010 and recent posts include a review of Zio’s Restaurant, a video on the Comptroller’s visit to Best Buy to promote Maryland’s tax-free weekend, and images from around town. It seems to have already attracted the attention of the usual online community activists, including Temperance Blalock, Theresa Defino, and Joe Jordan (on Red Gate Golf Course, no surprise), so you’ll see some familiar faces.
Fall is one of my favorite times of year and each year I nearly run off the road when I’m stunned by a brilliant tree. So for everyone’s safety, I head to Lake Frank, a reservoir off Avery Road just east of Rockville, to walk the paths and take it all in as slowly as I can. Here are some shots from today’s afternoon stroll.
Okay, this is going to sound a bit strange, but this fall, explore the forests around Rockville hunting for fungus. August and September’s warmth and humidity encourage lots of mushrooms to burst out of the forest floor and dead trees, and because they’re so short-lived, it’s a great time to see this and wonderful world at our feet. If you don’t remember this from biology class in high school, fungi are one of the six Kingdoms (others include Plantae and Animalia), so if you haven’t taken a close look at them, you’re missing a major part of the life.
In Rockville, you’ll find fungus in your yard and nearby parks, but the best location I’ve found with the largest diversity is the John G. Hayes Forest Preserve which is part of the Civic Center Park. The entrance is next to the Croydon Creek Nature Center. You’ll want to explore the forest above as well as the slopes below near the creek, so wear sturdy shoes. The big white mushrooms are easy to spot standing up from the ground or clinging to the bark of a tree, but usually you have to look more carefully and gently brush away leaves to find ones that are brown, small, or hidden underneath. In a couple hours, you should be able to find at least a dozen different types of mushrooms, many of which you’ll never have seen before. I’ve shared just a few in the slide show.
And now that I’ve shared my secret with you, I have a couple requests:
- please don’t pick up or remove the mushrooms you find. Kids love to kick them for some reason, but remind them to leave them for others to find and enjoy.
- don’t eat the mushrooms you find, unless you’re a mycologist. If you don’t know what that means, don’t even touch them. Many mushrooms are toxic and there’s no easy way to distinguish between edible and poisonous ones. You may not die but you could experience headaches, drowsiness, nausea, lowered blood pressure, diarrhea, urgent urination, profuse vomiting, extreme pain, blurred vision, asthma, muscle spasms, liver damage, and hallucinations. I didn’t list all the possible symptoms, just the ones that caught my attention.
If you’d like to learn more, pick up the Field Guide to the Mid-Atlantic States by Peter Alden and Brian Cassie (National Audubon Society) or the in-depth North American Mushrooms by Orson Miller and Hope Miller (Falcon Guide). I bought my copies at REI.