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Harsh Winter Delays Opening of Germantown Center Park

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As Germantown residents enjoy the warmer temperatures of late spring/early summer work continues on the long awaited Germantown Center Park, and officials now say that the park will officially open sometime in October.

County parks officials had hoped to have the new park open in time for residents to enjoy this spring, but the harsh winter slowed progress on the new park which is located behind the Germantown Public Library.

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The new park is situated at the northern end of an 8.80-acre parcel of land shared with the library. The site has been 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.

According to project manager, Andrew Frank with the Parks Development Division of the Montgomery County Parks, “The winter was not friendly to completing construction. At this point, we are expecting the contractor to complete all the hardscape by around the end of June and come back in the fall to add more plantings. We are planning for a formal opening in mid- October.”

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In an emailed updated to community leaders, Frank said that many people are starting to enter the park to check it out and enjoy the coming amenities. “We appreciate your patience as we are putting the finishing touches on this park and understand that you are eager to start using it. However, we have to ask you to please wait until the park is complete as there are active construction areas that are not safe for public use.”

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.

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.

“There is a tradition of working with found-branches and vines in architecture,” said Hess, “such as benches made out of grapevine. That is what the art in the park is trying to evoke, a familiarity that ilk. It is intended to look very natural without the bark and the details. If you used bark as a handrail it wouldn’t feel great on your hand, but it would function.”

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Indeed, much of the park will be constructed of that stainless-steel branch-like materials. There will be benches and hand-rails which will fit with the birds-nest motif of the pergola.

“It is a material that I have been working with,” said Hess. “I take section of pipe which I buy in 20 foot lengths and I heat it and twist it to make it look like a branch or tree. We are trying to create a man-made looking vine or sinew, to make it look like a grapevine or wisteria.”

“Being stainless steel, we can weld it, and heat it, and bend it and grind it like any other metal. It is incredibly strong and resilient. It is good to go outdoors forever, in terms of its longevity,” said Hess.

“They asked me to design some artwork that is somehow embedded in the park. One of the functions was to create this kind of gathering place or high point where people want to congregate or just as a resting spot,” said Hess. “We built it on these boulders that I gathered from a quarry near Baltimore. They were all hand-picked to go down there in Germantown.”

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The pergola is 14,000 feet of material that was twisted in the Hess’s studio near Baltimore. Hess and his crew then transported the piping materials to Germantown to build the pergola piece by piece by drilling holes in the tops of the boulders to hold the pipes.

“Pergolas are kind of rooms, in that when you are standing there you get the feeling of room, even though it is not a roof, but rather an architectural form. Before we built it that plaza was very exposed it didn’t feel like a space it felt like a frying pan because it was so hot in the sun,” said Hess. “The intention was to create an architectural feature that park patrons could hangout and get shelter from the rain and get some shade and become a place where people could sit and look out over the wetlands.”

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“The pergola is a feature in the park that draws you to it,” he said. “When I build something I want it to look like it was naturally part of that space. You don’t see a pattern to it, it looks like a bird or beaver built it. The park has that theme in it.”

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, according to Frank.


Top: The Nest, the pergola made of stainless steel “branches” designed and constructed by Baltimore-based artist David Hess is the centerpiece of the new Germantown Center Park.

Next: The architectural drawing of the park. Courtesy the Montgomery County Department of Parks.

Next: The sign in the railing at the park’s entrance.

Next: The railings, fashioned to look like branches, created by artist David Hess.

Next: The park’s braided walkway.

Next: The Canted Greenspace with sculptural lawn furnishings. Photo courtesy the Montgomery County Department of Parks.

Other photos by Germantown Pulse.


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