Monday, July 06, 2015

Do trees make this downtown Bethesda park feel unsafe?

The Montgomery County Planning Board will take up the refurbishment plan for Caroline Freeland Park at its July 16 meeting. Named after a prominent figure in county planning history, the park lies on property where a neighborhood of single-family homes once stood.

It contains a number of mature evergreens, pines and cypress trees which the county's Department of Parks says are blocking sight lines. "This leads to a perception of an unsafe condition, and thus inhibits some from freely using the park, especially in the evening," their report to planners states. The report recommends removing or significantly pruning those trees.

It's an interesting issue, because one of the community complaints about the Bethesda Downtown sector plan has been the lack of significant park spaces that are not simply hardscaped plazas or pocket parks. One would think mature trees would be of value at this site. All of the trees currently also serve as a noise buffer and air quality contributor for the residential neighborhood directly behind the park. It's unclear what extensive use this park would have after dark under the current proposal, and its nighttime use is necessarily limited by its proximity to residential Edgemoor anyway. So it would seem like a crime and policing issue more than the fault of the trees.
Tree removal plan
with red Xs to show
those to be removed
(click to enlarge)
The Parks Department has presented its final proposal to upgrade the park from its current conditions in this report. You may recall I gave you an overview of the general concepts in January.
"The Rockery" will lead
from Arlington Road's
sidewalk into the park
The Rockery - a line of natural boulders - will be a central element in the department's final recommended plan, as well as the creation of a "neighborhood green" within the park. They envision a lawn that can be programmed with yoga or fitness classes, among other activities. The currently-closed segment of Hampden Lane would be further developed into a pedestrian promenade, and the playground would be expanded to 5876 SF. That new playground would also be designed with equipment to better serve a wider variety of age groups.

There is an error in the report's history of downtown Bethesda. The report claims the arrival of the railroad had spurred growth in downtown Bethesda by 1894. But the railroad actually didn't reach Bethesda for another 15 years after that.

Images via Montgomery County Planning Department


Anonymous said...

If the county appreciates line of sight issues then they should do something about all the trees and bushes that partially block road signs and make it difficult to see oncoming cars from cross streets. I've got issues with hundreds of trees in this county but not one of them is inside a park, this or any other.

Anonymous said...

One of those trees just said, "This park don't go to Aintry. You boys is lost."

Definitely dangerous trees. Maybe Burt Reynolds can shoot them down with a bow and arrow.

Anonymous said...

I see more issues with the trees covering the street lights on Wisconsin than these trees. Maybe cutting the trees down on Wisconsin would happen faster than turning the new lights on that they installed.

Andrew said...

Why are we worried about trees causing sight line problems but not high-rises hiding the presence of public plazas?

My son and I love to look out for rabbits in the Regional Services Center Plaza. The rabbits would probably be mad if this space was actually used.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Re: "Do planners make these mature, downtown evergreens in Caroline Freeland Park feel safe?"

It is a dark day for the cypress, indeed. And probably not so much of a comfort to be told that their parts may be reused as thneeds, I mean, building wood. To a man with a plan, uprooting a tree may seem necessary for outdoor group yoga. But the tree probably wishes it had legs ... not so much for yoga as to be able to run far away from downtown Bethesda, where mature trees seem to be slowly disappearing from the landscape, one by leaflorn one. After all, no potential shady business may be imagined as possible under a running tree, even at night.

So many mortals wish that they had stronger roots. But this year, it seems, that if ever there were a Tree Santa, that cypress family in the middle of the park would be asking for feet. (To ask for wings might send the wrong impression.)

Trees don't care much for prunings, but they fear becoming leafmeal.

I am not a tree hugger. I am not crazy about cypresses (sorry, guys). And I like some of the new plans, which involve a large, central grassy space. But there almost seems a hypocrisy involved, to say we are promoting greenliness when actually, we have few palms about doing a hack job on some healthy, mature trees. They could simply trim them. But that would hinder the very nice new vision. So these mature and healthy cypresses shall go soundlessly into that good night.

But not without a eulotree.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand the safety issue and how they are concerned people will be afraid to go there in the evenings if the trees are there. Doesn't the park close at dusk just like other county parks? If so, no one should be there at night anyway.

As a frequent visitor to numerous playgrounds, we avoid this one during sunny days in summer because it lacks trees in the playground area. The equipment is too hot to use after baking in the sun all day. Instead, we go to Norwood, Greenwich, or the park in Kenwood (forgot the name) because they all have trees in the playground area to keep things cool.

Steve D. said...

The Lorax will have something to say about this.

The problem with this park is not trees, but that hideous metal sculpture in the corner. Also the tendency of homeless folks to hang out here at night. What kind of plants would prevent that?

Robert Dyer said...

6:19: Ironically, the park is about to get even hotter in sunlight with the new design.

Robert Dyer said...

Steve, I concur this is more a matter for the Park Police than simply chainsawing trees down.