By Kevin O’Rourke
Come next spring Germantown residents will be able to enjoy a stroll through the pathways of a brand new park in the Town Center area.
Construction on the Germantown Town Center Urban Park is anticipated to finish up by the first of the year, according to project manager, Andrew Frank with the Parks Development Division of the Montgomery County Parks and Recreation Department. However, the Parks Department will plan a more formal opening for the park sometime in the spring of 2015 as the weather gets nicer.
The new park situated at the northern end of an 8.80-acre parcel of land shared with the Germantown Regional Library. The site is challenging to develop due to the presence of existing wetlands, existing stormwater management facilities and steep slopes, according to the parks and recreation department. Due to site constraints, the park will be passive in nature, meaning no ball fields or playgrounds.
Features of the park include the creation of additional open space areas by placing a large stormwater management facility underground, new interpretive trails and boardwalks, lighting, overlook terraces, water features, a pavilion that could be used for community festivals and events, and enhanced wetland areas for education and interpretation of nature.
“As an urban park, it is very different from other parks within the county,” said Frank. “There is a plaza near the library to help connect the park to the library. There is a braided walkway feature that creates three ‘eyelid’ shaped spaces that also functions for access for visitors with disabilities. There is a canted lawn with unique wavy concrete structures and outdoor chaise lounges. There is the raised plaza with artwork. There is a formal lawn area with a granite necklace feature.”
While Frank reports that progress on the park’s construction has been diligent, the work was not without issues. “We had two unforeseen issues early on in construction,” said Frank. “One was an extensive amount of rock that needed to be excavated, and the other was that the underground stormwater management facility originally approved with the project was no longer accepted by the county by the time we got to construction.” Frank said the original designs had to be modified to bring the new stormwater management facility into line with new county standards.
By design, construction of the park has improved stormwater management in the area. “We replaced a large stormwater management pond that drained over 25 acres with an underground treatment facility, which created about two acres of usable public space,” said Frank.
The site also includes a section of land which was already a wetlands area which has been incorporated into the design of the park. “We designed the park to maintain and interpret the wetlands as much as we could,” said Frank. “We kept the trails and plazas out of the wetlands, and we included a boardwalk over them, so people could walk out and view the setting. We had to modify a number of the existing storm drains to fit into the design. We shortened the main one that feeds the wetlands, so we actually extended the wet portion of the site a little.”
One of the more eye-catching components of the park will be the new stylized pergola which will sit near the center of the park. The steel nest-like structure consisting of intertwining steel branches was designed by Baltimore-based artist David Hess, an award winning artist and sculptor with installations at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore as well as Pierce Park along Baltimore’s waterfront.
According to Frank, public art was envisioned to be part of the project during the Facility Planning portion of the project, and Hess was selected at the beginning of the design process. “The three large pieces within the raised plaza create a gathering place,” said Frank.
The overall artwork costs for the large pergola structure and the other artwork to be installed in the park cost between $200,000 and $300,000, said Frank.