Wednesday, June 11, 2008

guest blog: district 4 unites

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Hearing for determining historical status of Falkland Chase postponed until July.

Just Up The Pike wasn't able to attend last Thursday's inaugural meeting for, a user-generated website for District 4 residents. We asked local activist and Aspen Hill resident Thomas Hardman, who created the website along with Burtonsville's Eileena York, to write a recap of the event, held at the Long and Foster branch office in Burtonsville Crossing.

On a clear June night, most of the members of the Burtonsville Business Association acted as hosts to visitors from other parts of the county. Aside from this writer, we had a delegation from the Northwood-Four Corners civic association. Ms. Barth, the president, gave out considerable information regarding the status of their mild feud with the County and Parks and Planning, which intend to convert their community park into a soccer field.

We also had an unaffiliated "drop in" from Colesville, who mentioned something about a strawberry festival this weekend, but didn't give more details. He helped start an interesting discussion on traffic issues, pedestrian safety, and hiker-biker trail plans.

As regards to the County and Planning's plans for the park, there has been longstanding contentions that the intended action will amount to spending tax money that nobody has for a project the locals don't want. The delegation was adamant that they've already invested considerable personal time, along the most ecologically sensible lines, to clear invasive species out of the area, and to promote a shared neighborhood space suitable for almost all uses other than field athletic sports.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Thomas Hardman (this writer) had some questions about their experiences with respect to crime, inviting a contrast-and-compare examination of the respective approaches to cleaning up the parks pursuant to "crime prevention through environmental design." Ms. Barth pointed out that most of the overgrowth that obstructs a view of the parks - potentially creating a hiding place for crime - is in fact invasive vegetation. Indeed, this has been our experience at North Gate Park in Aspen Hill, at least at the edges of the park, where invasive vines created a mat that acted as a curtain. Simply removing the invasives over the last 5 years or so has resulted in much greater visibility in our park, and increased police activity in that area has made the park available again to the intended users, rather than a den of thieves.

We also heard more from myself and from Eileena York (of the BBA and Citizens Involved) on the intentions of our project. Eileena handled the organizational aspects as to times, dates, general purpose. I tried to elaborate on the philosophy.

All across District 4, and probably much of the rest of the county, you might have a set of neighborhoods, separated only by a stream or a major road. On either side of the divide, the houses are much the same, the issues are the same, the problems are the same, just as the same sun and moon shine on all alike. Yet each of these communities seems to deal with the county government and to seek remedy - for the same things - as individual communities. Each would benefit by more understanding of the neighboring communities, as commonalities would be come evident, and with commonality, perhaps a more unified and much larger set of petitioners to the County. Rather than dealing with each community as an isolated group, potentially playing zero-sum games of setting one against the other in a scramble for programs and funding, the County could be dealing with an entire Council District that has decided amongst themselves what they want and don't want. This would be a return to self-governance, to unity as a people, and potentially could be a check and balance against the tendencies of one-party governments towards top-down and occasionally arbitrary impositions of policy on the governed.

We don't know when or where our next meeting might be, yet, but at least this is a start. We will see how all of this unfolds over the next few years, as this is a long-term project at the very least. At the very best, who knows? It's utterly grass-roots which ought to please a certain type of Democrats and Independents, and if it gets results and helps hold down taxes while putting more power in the People and less in the government, sensible centrist Republicans ought to get on board as well. But party or ideology isn't the issue: the issue is increasing awareness and communication, and forming common cause to the public benefit.


retgroclk said...

With all this development in the County- park space is a valuable commodity-- Soccer fields-- No--more parks yes.

Thomas Hardman said...

There's an ongoing problem all across the region, with long-established Urban Forests suffering both canopy loss due to reasons which aren't entirely clear, and canopy loss due to people cutting down every tree on their property and paving their lawns.

That latter issue can be dealt with by County Code enforcement and perhaps enactment of new Code. I seem to recall that Mr Elrich either has supported or introduced such legislation, perhaps there is already extant law covering the matter.

Yet if it's not permissible for private citizens to effectively clear-cut significant acreage, can it be any more permissible to have significant acreage effectively clear-cut by an agency responsible for preserving our green spaces?

Anonymous said...

No one but Thomas himself seems to have made many edits on the site.

Thomas Hardman said...

Then maybe you ought to log in and do some contribution yourself... only you will not be doing it as "anonymous".

Only cowards or people with nothing at all to say post as "anonymous".