One of my greatest pleasures since moving to
Montgomery County more
than twenty years ago has been walking, biking, or hiking the
. Something magical happens every time I’m
there – a family of box turtles sunning themselves on a weather beaten log,
a pileated woodpecker jabbing away at a hollow tree trunk, a great blue
heron wading in the shallows. We’ve all witnessed some glory of nature
along the C&O Canal, just as we all likely cherish a fond memory of spending
a quiet, peaceful day along its beautiful towpath.
Potomac people care deeply about the C&O Canal Historic Park. Four years ago nearly 200 of us turned out for a meeting at that WMCCA helped organize with Congressman Van Hollens office to address public outcry over 55,000 square feet of trees cut by Mr. Snyder at Lock. The tree planting mitigation for that violation has still not been completed.
Later in 2005, Kevin Brant, C&O Canal Historic Park Superintendent, spoke at WMCCA’s December meeting about the park’s staff shortages, lack of adequate funding, and the problems of incomplete scenic easements and encroachments and told us about new measures to improve stewardship capability, public input, and Federal/County cooperation.
Since then, the C&O Canal Trust, a nonprofit organization headed by Matthew Logan, has been formed to work in partnership with the to protect, restore and promote the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Also since then, Friends of the Great Falls Historic Tavern raised funds and donated the new canal boat, the Charles F. Mercer, to the park in 2006. Alas, Mother Nature struck our own back yard on September 5 and 6, 2008, with stormwater that caused a breach of the towpath at Widewater between Great Falls and Old Angler’s Inn and another breach at Great Falls, leaving the new canal boat high and dry.
At WMCCA’s meeting, Superintendent Brant and Mr. Logan have promised to bring us some welcome news about the towpath, the breaches, and the . They will also speak to specific Potomac-area concerns – the status of the Great Falls area plan of a few years ago, including adding a bike path to the entrance road; parking problems near Old Angler's Inn and Swains Lock, vacant lock houses, and invasive stilt grass and deer browse issues. As always, the public is welcome.
Planning and Zoning Report – by George Barnes
presented plans to the WMCCA Board to request a modification of their
existing Special Exception to allow increased enrollment, hours of
operation, and staff as well as approval of their long-range building
program. They plan construction of a
, a new classroom building, a natatorium, and a
small building near River Road to house equipment. The proposal will surely
be controversial among neighbors and area citizens, and we will ask the
representatives to bring their plans to a membership meeting.
PNC Bank, Potomac Village: PNC Bank has filed a site plan modification proposal with Park and Planning to accommodate a drive-through remote teller and ATM facility along the Falls Road edge of the Safeway shopping center parking lot. A number of parking spaces will be lost. Cars using the new facility would enter from the lane behind the gas station and travel next to the sidewalk along Falls Road, with the ATM/teller machine on their left. On the other side of the machine a through traffic lane would be maintained joining the traffic leaving the ATM and proceeding toward the exit from the center. We have serious questions about the effect on traffic flow at this entrance and exit. The PNC Bank and shopping center planners feel that they can adequately handle the situation with the use of stop signs. This will come before the Planning Board and we will have an opportunity to comment.
Potomac Swim and Tennis Club: WMCCA will testify at a hearing before the Examiner on March 9, in opposition to the proposal to erect a tennis bubble over expanded courts along the Oaklyn Drive side of the property. The bubble would be up for six months of each year and has raised a number of significant issues. The opposed the proposal, and their report has been forwarded to the Hearing Examiner.
Environmental Report – by Ginny Barnes
Forest Conservation Easements
have increased recently. With
and stormwater pollution to the
, any further loss of forest and tree cover is serious
and costly to our deteriorating environmental health.
Parks and Recreational Programming: The County Council Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee (PHED), composed of Councilmembers Knapp, Floreen and Elrich, has required both the Director of Parks (one-half of the Park and Planning Commission) and the Recreation Department (which is part of the ) to produce reports on merging all recreational programming into one entity, either under Parks or under Recreation. However, recreation is more than organized sports, and much of what the Parks Department offers in terms of programs includes fostering stewardship toward our parkland. With 34,000 acres and 400 parks in the Montgomery County Parks system (compared to less than a third that much for other jurisdictions in Maryland) it is a bad idea to divorce programming from the very agency that maintains parks, and move it to a department with no investment in protecting parkland. Further, over the years the County Executive Office has proposed numerous questionable uses for our parklands, including bus depots, affordable housing, schools, and roads. WMCCA is working with several environmental and watershed groups on this issue.
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
Check the web site for information on issues we are working on.