Montgomery parks department to move forward on Silver Spring soccer field -- Gazette.Net







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Resident says community doesn’t want to lose natural meadow

by Kara Rose

Staff Writer

Silver Spring resident Brian Morrissey said members of his community have opposed a proposed soccer field near their home for more than a decade.

The lot consists of a wooded area and a meadow that is home to wildlife and spaces such as “firefly alley” — for the way it lights up on summer nights — and the “buttercup room” by the community for their natural beauty.

All of that will be gone when the Montgomery County Parks Department bulldozes the area for an adult-sized soccer field, he said.

The department purchased the rolling six acres between University Boulevard and the North Four Corners Local Park in 1998 and expects to break ground on the field this summer. The field will be a quality, regulation field, said Marian Elsasser of the parks department.

She said the project has not yet gone through a bid process yet, but the department anticipates construction will start this summer and take about a year to complete. Elsasser said the original construction cost was set at about $4.8 million, but she expects the county will spend about a million dollars less than that on the project.

The soccer field that once existed at the park will be converted to an open space, she said. No permits have been given for the existing field, as the goal posts were removed from the torn-up dirt patch after neighbors complained about the facilities.

Morrissey, president of the Northwood-Four Corners Civic Association, said neighbors have complained about the facilities already available at the park and he is worried the department won’t properly maintain the field.

“If they don’t take care of what’s there, how can we trust them to take care of what they are planning to put there?” he said.

Elsasser said the department is saving 60 trees more than the legal requirement and 330 shrubs more than required. All of those trees and shrubs will be replanted at the location of the original soccer field, which also will contain benches and pathways.

The project also will allow the department to bring the park up to code with stormwater management.

But Morrissey said the saplings the parks department is planning for the space would not equate to the green space he and his neighbors are losing.

“We don’t feel like that’s a trade we’re willing to make,” Morrissey said, noting that he isn’t sure what else the community can do to influence the future of the project.

Montgomery County Recreation Department Director Gabriel Albornoz said the county needs more soccer fields, particularly in the downcounty area, which includes Silver Spring. He referred questions on the planned soccer field to the parks department.

The county’s 2005 Land Preservation, Parks and Recreation Plan showed a need for multiuse rectangular fields. At the time of the report, there were 103 multipurpose rectangular fields and 70 youth rectangular fields in the county. The county still needs about 73 and 15 more, respectively, by 2020, according to the report.

The county is working through “competitively awarded private-public contracts with operators” to add soccer field sites in the downcounty region, according to the Department of General Services website.

Montgomery Soccer Inc. Executive Director Doug Schuessler did not respond to multiple requests for comment on whether the Derwood-based group is looking to work with the county on this field.