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Park Planning

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MEETINGS & EVENTS | PLANS IN PROGRESS | HOW PARKS ARE PLANNED | PARK AND TRAIL PLAN LIBRARY

The Park Planning Section creates and updates park master plans. These plans define the future of the park system. Park plans recommend additions and renovations to the park system to provide recreation opportunities, protect significant environmental resources, preserve key cultural resources (i.e., archaeological and historical sites) and promote an interconnected countywide trail system.

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Plans in Progress

How Parks are Planned

URBAN PARKS | TRAILS | ATHLETIC FIELDS

Currently, much of the Park and Trail Planning work is focused on three priorities: Urban Parks, Trails, and Athletic Fields

The Park and Trail Planning Section of the M-NCPPC Montgomery County Parks Department strives to achieve the "right parks in the right places" in a growing county that has little undeveloped land left. Park and Trail Planning produces long range strategic plans, park and trail master plans, concept plans, site selection studies, recommendations for area master plans, and reviews all development proposals that might impact or contribute to the Park system.

During the first half of 2016 alone, park planners have worked with area master planning teams to include over twenty new urban park recommendations in urban or urbanizing areas of the county, as well as providing guidance to our park design and development projects to make sure our parks reflect the needs of the community.

Our Park and Trail Planning Section has produced several award-winning plans, including two strategic plans -- the Vision 2030 Strategic Plan for Parks and Recreation and the 2012 Park, Recreation, and Open Space (PROS) Plan.  Both plans received awards in 2012 from the National Capital Chapter of the American Planning Association and from the Society of Outdoor Recreational Professionals.

Urban Parks Guidelines logoUrban Parks

Park Planning in Areas of Highest Population Density

Ensuring that we have green, open space in the right places in the more populated areas is critical to serving the citizens of Montgomery County. With limited resources, we focus on delivering services according to areas of highest need per population, as recommended in our strategic plans such as the Vision 2030 and 2012 PROS Plan and based on data on park use and trends. 

As land has become more expensive and difficult to acquire, we have learned to be more efficient by renovating and repurposing individual features of existing parks to meet current needs. Finding and purchasing new parks in the areas of highest population density can be challenging, making funding sources critical to ensuring we can purchase and preserve open spaces in current and growing urban areas. Staff is pursuing a variety of funding mechanisms beyond the traditional sources of Program Open Space, Legacy Open Space, and the Advanced Land Acquisition Revolving Fund. 

The concept of a Subdivision Staging Policy for Parks(PDF) will be discussed with the Planning Board this Spring. Other new ideas being explored include a zoning tool called Density Transfer, in the draft Bethesda Downtown Plan.

Additional tools under study include partnerships with private, non-profit, and governmental entities where increased parkland will create a win-win solution for all involved.

Countywide Park Trails Plan logoTrails

The Park System’s Most Popular Facilities

Montgomery Parks’ major trail systems include 108 miles of hard surface trails and 155 miles of natural surface trails. These trails are among the most used features of our park system. Ensuring our citizens have access to trails – which can be used to improve health, wellness and fitness is important.

As we’ve embarked on a comprehensive amendment to the Countywide Park Trails Plan which guides future investments in major park trails of countywide significance, we’ve proposed updates designed to enable more people to take advantage of our extensive park system.

Hard surface and natural surface park trails are well-used by residents and visitors alike for recreation, transportation, as well as physical and mental health/fitness. Trails through wooded, shaded parks offer ample opportunities to experience nature, observe wildlife, identify birds and trees, and soak in the scenery. Trails can be a destination, as well as a route to or through an area.

Public surveys conducted during the 2012 PROS Plan identified park trails as among the most popular and most used facilities in the park system. The survey also revealed that residents want more trails, particularly closer to where they live and/or work, and that residents highly value park natural areas.

Park trails and natural areas go hand-in-hand within the M-NCPPC Montgomery Parks system. Park trails are gateways to natural areas; they are the means by which park users typically access and enjoy natural areas. Park trails also have been shown to improve both physical and mental health. Active recreational activities such as walking, biking and running strengthen muscles and the cardiovascular system, while the sights, sounds and smells of nature offer a respite from the stresses of daily life. And finally, trails are often used for transportation, especially downcounty in more urban areas where residents bike and walk along trails for commuting to work, shopping, or traveling to local destinations such as neighborhood parks, community centers and libraries.

Vision 2030 and 2012 PROS Plan recommended targeting future park facility investments on areas with the highest existing population densities, as well as the areas likely to grow significantly over the next 15-20 years. Accordingly, the updated Countywide Park Trails Plan has a framework of trails called Loops & Links, which is designed to offer the highest level of service in the areas of highest density.  The Loops & Links system offers a very high level of service to existing and future county residents. When fully built-out, sixty-eight percent (68%) of residents will live within 1-mile of a loop or link and nearly one hundred percent (100%) will live within 3 miles. When regional bikeway connectors are included, 85% of residents will be located within 1 mile, and nearly 100% will be located within 3 miles. Under both scenarios, 100% of residents are served within 5 miles.

Athletic Fields Studies logoAthletic Fields

The County at Play

Athletic fields are also a top priority for Montgomery Parks, as a variety of user groups depend on such fields to play softball, baseball, football, soccer, cricket and other sports. With guidance from the Montgomery County Council, Park planners have worked with staff in the operations side of the Department to identify the following goals for the athletic field program:

  • Improve the athletic field user experience in terms of quality of playing surface and safety,
  • Increase capacity utilization of fields by improving field quality.
  • Increase maintenance efficiency.
  • Minimize maintenance costs.

The goals above can be categorized as "Fix What You Have" which develops strategies to increase field quality and consistent availability for the existing inventory of fields to provide the best experience for the ballfield customer. Park planners are leading the production of an Athletic Fields Strategic Plan. This plan will inform the update of the 2012 PROS Plan to determine what unmet needs for fields we have in each of 7 geographies in the County, as well as how and where the Department should invest resources in improving the quality of existing fields. 

Park planners also co-lead the Parks Department's Ballfield Initiatives Program -- a vehicle to increase field playability by investing in field related improvements. Examples of improvements include drainage improvements, re-grading, fencing, turf renovations, irrigation, backstop replacements, infield renovations, lighting, and irrigation. A major initiative will be comprehensive irrigation. With pesticide use being curtailed, turf health will need to be maintained using other more reliable and consistent methods. Irrigation will allow soil moisture to be maintained at a consistent level. Scheduled watering at key intervals without relying on "Mother Nature" will be vital. A consistent level of moisture will promote good turf roots, which subsequently keeps the grass full, green, and healthy.

Park & Trail Plan Library

COUNTYWIDE PLANS | PARK PLANS | TRAIL PLANS | STUDIES & INITIATIVES

Countywide Plans
Park Plans

Park Master Plans

Trail Plans

Trail Corridor Plans

Studies & Initiatives

In Progress

  • Historic Projects (web page)
  • 2017 Park Recreation and Open Space Plan (coming soon)
  • Site Selection Studies
    M-NCPPC Montgomery Parks has an initiative to select sites for needed park facilities.
  • Urban Park Guidelines
    Staff is developing the second phase of the Guidelines. Give us your input on this planning tool!

Completed

Last update: June 22, 2016