Monday, May 7, 2007

turf town meeting: staking out your turf

BUT FIRST: The bloggers meet in Silver Spring on Tuesday; the Citizens get Involved in Burtonsville on Wednesday; and Lewis Black comes home to Springbrook next month.

Part One of Just Up The Pike's coverage of last Saturday's "Turf Town Meeting." Also check out the proposed plans for Veterans' Plaza and our previous entries about "the Turf."

Last Saturday afternoon was like any other in Silver Spring. In the street, the Farmers' Market, just ended, had begun packing up; a pack of skateboarders, ranging in age from dough-faced freshmen to college-age, lounged in front of the Baja Fresh; and a man stood at the corner of Fenton and Ellsworth, handing out packets on socialism to passers-by. But on "the Turf," a group of well-intentioned and strongly outspoken citizens had gathered to point and yell about the future of the very [artificial] ground they stood on.

Organized by the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board and sponsored by a raft of like-minded community groups, the "Turf Town Meeting" - one of several regarding the future of Silver Spring's accidental hangout - has been publicized for weeks on blogs and neighborhood listservs, and was rewarded by a decent turnout both on "the Turf" itself and at a panel discussion later that afternoon in the Round House Theatre on Colesville Road (which we'll talk about more tomorrow).

As if the chalk lines criss-crossing "the Turf" - showing where the proposed Veterans' Plaza and Civic Building will go (see below) - were real, the crowd was divided by supporters and opponents of the fake lawn that became Silver Spring's accidental favorite hangout. While Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, explained how the site will be laid out, local residents argued over the ice rink's merits. "If a bunch of us hadn't fought for Jesup Blair Park, that would be gone too," shouted Nancy Weber, a local resident for fifty-five years. "This ['the Turf'] is the only green space we have left."

Away from the crowd, Weber explains that we already have an ice rink three miles away in Wheaton. "I can't see spending the money for an ice rink a couple of months of the year," she says. "Somehow it's become a big issue, like we've been deprived . . . I think we've gotten our share. It was a happy surprise that people loved ["the Turf"] so much."

Surprises aside, John Haslinger - the self-appointed "Mayor of Silver Spring" and a thirty-year resident of Bonifant Street - thinks the ice rink is a done deal and sorely needed Downtown. "I have photographs from when this was just a field," he says, having followed the area through its decline. "I was here when they called this place 'Beirut' . . . we went through a long process to get an ice rink. This is really not the time to be asking questions."

The rink can be everything to everyone, Haslinger continues, but the love affair with "the Turf" is fleeting. An ice rink "provides interest, provides a destination for people who do use it and something to watch for people who don't," he says. "For those people who'd like to see the grass up there, I don't think they're considering how it's gonna be with the traffic."

"This [currently] is sort of a rolling little meadow," Haslinger notes, sweeping his hands across the gently sloping green. "The artificial turf is nice on a slope. When you put it on a flat surface, it's just turf."

TOMORROW: Read what the experts think about fake grass, a real city, and what movies to show during the summer film festival. In the meantime, check out the proposed plans for Veterans' Plaza and our previous entries about "the Turf."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think people have made the case that the Turf should stay. Cut the plaza that no body wants. Save some money for other improvements in the CBD. Ans please please redesign the plans for that horrid Civic Building.