We make continual additions and enhancements to the park system to provide recreation opportunities, protect environmental resources, preserve key cultural resources, and promote an interconnected countywide trail 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 guidance to our park design and development projects to make sure our parks reflect the needs of the community.
The Energized Public Spaces Functional Master Plan (EPS FMP) for Parks in Mixed Use and Higher Density Residential Areas will allow park planners to quickly adapt to changing park needs in some areas of the county. The goal is to create outdoor spaces where people of all ages and incomes can meet, play, relax, exercise, enjoy nature and more in a range of parks and open spaces in the highest populated areas of the County. The plan will:
Parks staff held a Public Meeting for the Energized Public Spaces: Functional Master Plan on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. The public was invited to give feedback and ideas for this plan to build stronger, healthier and happier communities in the County’s areas of highest population using an Interactive Map.
We strive to achieve the “right parks in the right places” in a growing county that has little undeveloped land left. Ensuring that we have green, open space in the more populated areas is critical to serving 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 repurpose 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. We are pursuing a variety of funding mechanisms including partnerships with private, non-profit, and governmental entities where increased parkland will create a win-win solution for all involved.
Montgomery Parks’ major trail systems include 108 miles of hard surface trails and 155 miles of natural surface trails. These popular 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, especially down-county 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.
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 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. Our goals include:
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.