Montgomery Parks and Montgomery Planning Accomplishments Highlighted in Montgomery County Climate Action Annual Report

by MCS Staff

Montgomery Parks and Montgomery Planning, both part of The Montgomery County Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, are combatting climate change in the county by using clean energy, enabling energy efficient transportation in the county, implementing new programs and initiatives, supporting carbon sequestration efforts, and collaborating with the Montgomery County Department of the Environment in meeting the County’s Climate Action Plan. All of these efforts among others are detailed in the Montgomery County Climate Action Annual Report, which showcases 2022 accomplishments and outlines plans to combat climate change in 2023.

The Montgomery County Climate Action Plan (CAP) is a strategic plan to cut community-wide greenhouse gas (GHG)emissions by 80% by 2027 and by 100% by 2035, as compared to 2005 levels. The plan also seeks to reduce climate-related risks to county residents, businesses, and the built and natural environment.

“Fighting climate change is going to require action from all of us and Montgomery Parks is proud to be part of these efforts,” said Mike Riley, director of Montgomery Parks. “We hope to serve as an example, locally and nationally, as to how parks systems can work with partner agencies to improve our environment.”
“Environmental resilience is one of the main overarching priorities in Thrive Montgomery 2050 – the update to the county’s General Plan,” said Montgomery Planning Director Gwen Wright. “Planning to make our communities more resilient while working with county government partners to implement specific operational tools to address climate change is a priority for our department.”

Montgomery Parks’ Fiscal Year 2022 Climate Action accomplishments include:

  • The addition of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in 42 parking spaces in 11 parks, through a partnership with Pepco and Baltimore Gas and Electric. EV charging stations are fully operational in five parks to date, including South Germantown Recreational Park and Big Pines Local Park.
  • An all-electric equipment pilot program in which two park maintenance crews have been provided a trailer and all-electric weed eaters, edgers, leaf blowers, and stand-up, no-turn lawn mowers. Additional trailers with electric equipment were purchased to expand the program.
  • The department hosted its first urban wood reuse sale last fall, making wood slabs and lumber sawed from our portable sawmill available to the public for purchase. Approximately 8,500 board feet of wood slabs were purchased during the event.
  • Planting of 1,500 trees and 1,125 shrubs on parkland.
  • The opening of Nolte Community Garden featuring 19 accessible gardening beds atop the foundation of a demolished park activity building. This garden addresses equity goals by engaging seniors and addressing food insecurity in this part of Silver Spring.
  • Hosting the county’s 2022 Greenfest celebration at Brookside Gardens for 5,000 attendees to learn about ways to go green. The event featured a coalition of public, non-profit, and university partners.

 

 Montgomery Parks actions planned for Fiscal Year 2023 include:

  • Three maintenance yards will be receiving rooftop solar panels, which, combined, will produce approximately 249,000 kWh of energy annually.
  • Planting 250 trees in Watts Branch Stream Valley Park.
  • Opening of Edgewood Community Garden to provide healthy, accessible food in Silver Spring.

 

  • Development of a sustainable, modular learning space called Black Hill SEED (Sustainable Education Every Day) classroom. The classroom will encourage creative education through the building’s living and technical components. The SEED classroom is net-zero water and net-zero energy and will allow students to track energy production and rainwater collection.

Montgomery Planning’s Fiscal Year 2022 Climate Action accomplishments include:

  • Thrive Montgomery 2050 is currently undergoing County Council review. Final approval is anticipated by fall 2022. Meetings to coordinate Thrive Montgomery 2050 and CAP implementation will begin after the final plan is approved.
  • Hired and is currently working with ICF Consulting, Inc. to research and develop a climate assessment tool for zoning text amendments and master plans for use as of March 1, 2023, following passage of Montgomery County’s Climate Assessment law in July 2022.
  • Through its Reforest Montgomery program, planted 793 trees through reforestation projects in FY22 in which multiple trees were planted at a rate of at least 100 trees/acre. The Reforest Montgomery program includes efforts to reforest County parkland and private properties protected by easements and offers free trees and a native tree coupon to reduce the cost of native trees planted within the county. The program focuses these efforts on urban areas of the county or areas where there has been historical forest loss or to reduce runoff and improve stream water quality.
  • Completed the Silver Spring Cool Streets Guidelines that identified Silver Spring’s heat island impacts, thermal heat stresses, and solutions for cooling the streetscapes in downtown.
  • Finalized, in partnership with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, the Complete Streets Design Guide, which has been approved by the Planning Board. Updates to the County Code and regulations to implement the guide are currently under County Council review.
  • Made significant progress on developing the countywide Pedestrian Master Plan to make walking and rolling safer, more comfortable, and more accessible. Completed in FY22 a countywide Pedestrian Survey and an Existing Conditions Report. Draft Pedestrian Master Plan recommendations were released in July 2022. Montgomery Planning will submit the draft Pedestrian Master Plan to the Planning Board later in 2022. The draft plan is expected to be transmitted to the County Council in spring 2023.
  • Developed an amendment to strengthen the county’s Forest Conservation Law in April 2022. The Montgomery County Planning Board transmitted the draft bill to the County Council in May for a September 2022 introduction. The bill would increase forest planting and forest conservation requirements for projects subject to the Montgomery County Forest Conservation Law.
  • Completed the Access Management Study that examined existing practices in Montgomery County to manage property and corridor access and provided recommendations to improve access management based on best practices and consistent with Vision Zero and a Complete Streets framework.
  • Participating in an interagency team supporting the development of a flood management study for Montgomery County and is providing GIS data such as stream valleys and floodplains to help create a more realistic conditions map of the County.
  • Collaborating with the Department of Environmental Protection on a new Decision Support Tool for implementing Nature Based Solutions throughout the county with a focus on urban areas. The tool can be used for master planning, neighborhood/ subdivisions, and site plans. It will provide quantifiable data such as carbon storage and sequestration numbers for different land planning scenarios

Montgomery Planning’s actions to support the CAP planned for FY 2023 include:

  • Implementation of multiple Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments grants to: 1) improve pedestrian and cyclist accessibility of the Germantown MARC station; 2) update the county’s lighting standards; 3) study ways to improve pedestrian and bicycle access and safety in the Town of Kensington’s Connecticut Avenue corridor.
  • Participating on an inter-agency committee to analyze the potential for reforesting stream buffers in the reservoir watershed as a Best Management Practice (BMP) to help the reservoir move closer to meeting its Stormwater Management requirements to meet Total Maximum Daily Load Levels (TMDLs) for phosphorus and sediment.
  • Completion of the draft Pedestrian Master Plan for Planning Board and County Council review.
  • Initiation of climate assessments for ZTAs and master plans starting March 1, 2023.
  • Implementation of Thrive Montgomery 2050 policies and actions that support the CAP.

The complete list of Montgomery Parks’ and Montgomery Planning’s accomplishments and planned actions can be found in the Climate Action Plan Annual Report.

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