Urban Parks and Public Spaces Design Guidelines

The Montgomery Planning Department is working on The Urban Parks and Public Spaces (UPPS) Design Guidelines to create inviting, easily accessible, attractive, comfortable, and safe public spaces. When complete, the Urban Parks and Public Spaces Design Guidelines will be a companion document to the Energized Public Spaces Functional Master Plan (EPS) Plan.

The UPPS Design Guidelines will provide overall direction for major features of parks and public spaces design including the recommended size, type of experiences and amenities for each park type should provide.

These guidelines will aim to create places within a short walk where people of all ages and incomes can meet, play, relax, exercise, enjoy nature and more in a range of parks and public spaces where we have the most people.

The guidelines will:

Develop flexible guidelines for urban parks and public spaces

Create a common language for planners, developers and citizens

Integrate lessons learned from case studies.

The public comment period will take place this fall.

Learn more by visiting https://www.montgomeryparks.org/projects/directory/urban-parks-guidelines/.

Parklet Pop-Up in Tysons, A Great Example for Pike District

Tysons Corner, one of our neighboring urban areas, is on a similar path to redevelopment from an auto-centric “concrete jungle” to a walkable, green community. For now, many people are looking for short term uses of spaces throughout the region that could incorporate elements of “complete streets” and give current residents and office workers spaces to relax. Currently, places like urban parks, playing fields, and walking paths are missing in Tysons.  The Meridian Group, a major developer in the area, came up with a creative solution to this problem, at least in the short term.

A pop-up “parklet”, called the Greensboro Green, now sits in a 10,000-acre parking lot. This parklet is brightly colored, attractive space with many places to sit, relax, and gather in the middle of office parks.

To make Tysons a walkable, sustainable community, more parks and playing fields are necessary. Currently, “parkland accounts for less than 5 percent of Tysons 2,100 acres,” which is a problem. So it would seem that the parklet is the first step towards “bridg[ing] the gap between the Tysons of now and the Tysons of the future,” as Lori Aratani from the Washington Post mentions. The Pike District faces a similar reality, where 161 acres of the total 430 acres of the sector are surface parking lots. Thirty-seven percent of our land is sitting empty as surface parking lots, which could be used for so many other things.

Tysons provides some great amenities that unique to the area. There are four metro stations that recently open, creating a larger variety of transit opportunities for residents and visitors to frequent the area. In addition, Tysons has the largest mall in the area, bringing all types of people to Tysons. The plan is for Tysons to have many mixed-use spaces, bringing in many restaurants, services, and other types of stores to the area.

The parklet is a great example for the Pike District. Since many of the developments in the area are slated to happen in the next 20-30 years, we could have pop-up parks that give the community fun and safe places to play and gather in the short-term.


Urban Park Designs Influence the Health of City Residents

Parks in cities are more than just pretty places to sit and relax.  They have positive effects on community health. The design of a park “plays a crucial role in how much it is used and, therefore, what level of impact it can make” on community residents.

Jeff Caldwell from UrbDeZine Chicago decided to examine various designs and forms of urban parks, which all have positive effects on the community’s health.

Minneapolis/St.Paul has a park that is includes five different lakes, called the Chain of Lakes. This park encourages residents to be physically active in more than one outdoor activity. The Wissahickon Park in Philadelphia improves residents’ health by keeping the water clean. The park “absorb[s] and clean[s] the polluted run-off water from surfaces before it can hit the waterway.” Lincoln Park in Chicago is designed to include different features that “draw different races and ethnicities” to the park. Groups of people have different preferences in what they like in parks and types of activities in which they want to participate. Ruff House Dog Park in Richmond provides space for dog lovers to be active with their dogs. And finally, Caldwell focuses on Portland, Oregon. Portland has about 10,000 acres of parkland in the city. The city truly prioritizes parks and benefits they provide for community members.

Caldwell shows us that there are many park forms but they all have something in common: they help us improve our health and well-being. Providing open park space in the White Flint sector is important to us, which is why we continue to advocate for the Wall Park development.

FoWF Advocacy

Friends of White Flint is the only independent organization that represents the entire range of stakeholders impacted by the redevelopment of White Flint. When we create a position, we tap into the residents, businesses and landowners in and around our area in order to build consensus. Our advocacy often occurs in person and over the telephone but, last week, we had the opportunity to send letters on three topics at issue within county government.  The first is regarding the renovations being contemplated for Nebel Street, the second is asking for Hoya Street to be completed and the last is advocating for additional funds in the Parks Department budget for urban park elements.

Check out the text below :

To MCDOT regarding the redesign of Nebel Street (and see the update at the bottom):

We are very grateful that traffic engineer Kyle Liang took the time to share MCDOT’s plans for Nebel Street with the White Flint Downtown Advisory Board last month.  Friends of White Flint was present at the meeting and would like to share some thoughts and recommendations based on the concepts provided.  Friends of White Flint is a community advocacy group which represents the entire range of stakeholder groups impacted by the redevelopment of the White Flint Sector.  Our members include not only hundreds of individual residents but also most of the condominium and civic associations in and abutting the sector, businesses, and property owners/developers.

Nebel Street is a unique and well-traveled border of the White Flint sector and, though it is mostly industrial at present, it is projected for growth in the near future.  We are grateful for MCDOT’s attention to the road, and the fiscally-prudent strategy to assess how best we can be using the existing pavement.  We agree that re-striping the road and incorporating bicycle infrastructure are excellent improvements.  There are three major concerns, however, which we’d like to share.

While we appreciate the dedicated bicycle lane, and are willing to trade that facility’s optimum width for the streamlining of the project, we are concerned with its abrupt end before Randolph Road.  Bicycle trips will not end mid-block and it is unfair and unsafe to terminate a bike lane suddenly, depositing bicycles in the lane with unsuspecting drivers.  We do, however, understand that the pavement narrows at this point, impacting the options.  If a solution which continues the bike lane until the intersection is impossible, then we ask for every effort to be made in ensuring the safe transition of bikes into traffic.  Specifically, we ask that MCDOT install highly visible signage at the curbs and sharrows in the lane.  The suggestion that paint in the travel lane, in the form of a sharrow, is economically prohibitive is unacceptable.

Second, we ask that MCDOT take a more comprehensive look at the intersection of Marinelli Road and Nebel Street.  The subject of lengthy discourse over two WFDAC meetings, this intersection poses a significant visibility risk for drivers turning left onto Nebel from Marinelli.  A curve, a hill and parked cars make it very difficult to see and we ask that additional traffic calming measures be considered, just as they were at the intersection with Old Georgetown Road.  While a three-way stop has been discussed most widely, our members have also asked that you consider roundabouts at both the interesection with Marinelli and Old Georgetown.  We offer this suggestion with the understanding that it might broach farther into the realm of a capital improvement but ask that you explore all options to improve safety at these intersections.

Finally, we ask that you take a look at improving conditions at the intersection of Nebel Street and Nicholson Lane.  This intersection is presently treacherous for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.  A hedge at the southeast corner obstructs visibility for all travelers.  Also, the travel lanes on Nebel approaching the intersection are not clearly marked.  Drivers often mistake which lanes are for turning and which are for through-traffic.  And, large tractor trailers are often parked on the west side of Nebel Street, approaching Nicholson Lane obstructing visibility and stretching into travel lanes. There must be better solutions, for the sake of both visibility and safety.

We understand that these improvements to Nebel Street are still in the conceptual phase but we applaud your forethought in tackling them.  It’s our hope that a portion of the traffic calming budget will be used toward these needed changes and that they could be installed this year.  But, in the interest of using our county funds most effectively, we hope that our comments will be considered so that the improvements will be comprehensive and long-lasting.

** Update on Nebel Street – we learned from Dee Metz, the county’s White Flint Implementation Coordinator that MCDOT is now planning a 3-way stop at the intersection with Nebel Street.

To the County Council on completing Hoya Street as part of their Capital Improvements Projects Budget:

Friends of White Flint is ecstatic about the proposed acceleration of funding to complete Hoya Street in the White Flint sector and we ask that you and your colleagues maintain it within the budget.  Friends of White Flint is a community advocacy group which represents the entire range of stakeholder groups impacted by the redevelopment of the White Flint Sector.  Our members include not only hundreds of individual residents but also most of the condominium and civic associations in and abutting the sector, businesses, and property owners/developers.

Presently, Hoya Street ends abruptly just north of Old Georgetown Road.  In fact, when a driver begins their southbound journey from Rockville Pike, it actually appears that Hoya is a throughstreet that connects with the improving White Flint street grid.  It’s not until a driver is right upon it that they realize their mistake and need to turn around.  An improved street grid is crucial to a successfully redeveloped White Flint, and for addressing the ever-worsening traffic running through it.  A connected Hoya Street is at the heart of this.  Please get this project back on track by funding it as recommended by the T&E committee.

Thank you for considering this issue as you address the budget.

And, to augment the funding of the Parks’ department to allow them flexibility when addressing urban parks (like those planned for Wall Park and the White Flint Civic Green).  It’s our hope that the department will use some of these extra funds to make easy and relatively inexpensive improvements to Wall Park now, so we can increase our enjoyment of the space while we wait for the full improvement.  This is from our letter to the County Council on this budgetary item:

Green space is crucially important to the success of White Flint and we need the county to do its part to ensure our parks reach their potential. Therefore, we urge that the county fund Urban Parks Elements independently of other existing park needs so that these important areas can receive the attention they require.  It is our hope that some of this funding will be used toward improving Wall Park so that, even before its full transformation is complete, it can become an area of respite for residents of our growing White Flint area.

Advocacy is crucial to the success of the White Flint Sector!  Join us!