Sunday, July 8, 2012



(A somewhat biased guide to engaging your new (or reconnecting with your old) community)

So, you just moved to Silver Spring. Or you woke up one day and said "gee, it would be neat to know more about my neighborhood."... Where do you start?

First, you might ask yourself - wasn't that line in a Talking Head song? - "what IS Silver Spring"?...  THAT is a complicated question.


Silver Spring is - it could be philosophically said - a state of mind. It is NOT a city. (At least not in the legal sense. Silver Spring is not an incorporated geographic area of Montgomery County. Rockville is; so is Takoma Park. Silver Spring is a postal address; an UNincorporated region; a commercially designated area. But, it is NOT a city. For certain purposes – and as used by many -  Silver Spring extends north past Wheaton (not a city either!) and Burtonsville (you guessed it! - not a city.)

HOWEVER, for the purpose of community engagement and general civic matters, Silver Spring is understood to be the area in Montgomery County east of Rock Creek Park, west of Prince George County, north of DC, and south of the Beltway (except it also includes the Four Corners community – including Blair High School.) For these purposes Silver Spring encompasses Takoma Park (yes, the "City of"), a portion of Langley Park (the part in Montgomery County), the communities of Long Branch, Montgomery Hills, Lyttonsville, Rose Mary Hills, all the "Woodside" neighborhoods, Indian Springs, and many other self-identified and recognized neighborhoods. This is the ‘bureaucratic’ boundaries of the official Montgomery County government designated “Silver Spring Regional Area”. For the official web-site, visit HERE.

This Silver Spring “Regional Area” is also the area where 9 of the 21 Purple Line stations will be located. It is an area that boasts at least seven identifiable commercial hubs. (Can you name them all?) And, it is an area with its own 2-year community college, a university, a public high school, various elementary and middle schools, three public libraries, two (or three, depending how you count) rec centers; an awesome wooden bat college level baseball team; its own cultural center, music venue countless theaters, and an increasing number of restaurants offering music; and, parks and parklands a-plenty.

And yes, Silver Spring also includes "downtown" Silver Spring. While many people may perceive only Downtown to be "downtown", downtown Silver Spring runs from Spring Street down to the DC line; and it includes all the commercial (and hi-rise residential) areas along East Way Highway from Georgia Avenue past Colesville, and all of Fenton Street. Want to see some cool maps for this designated area? Visit HERE….  Downtown - with a capital "D" - is the name of the commercial shopping and eating area built as part of the redevelopment project on Ellsworth Street. It technically does not include the inside of City Place Mall, but it does include Whole Foods... That commercial area (“Downtown” Silver Spring) has its own web-site – see HERE. For the broader “downtown” area website, go HERE – and check out our new mobile version at

Confused? Not to worry; just enjoy it all!... (Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good!)


(Isn't THAT another song too?) Yelp, Google, Zillow, WalkScore and many other "sites" can give you instant info for what is around here, how things are going, and what is there to do.

HOWEVER: if you want to get the real skin, to truly go beneath the surface, to unveil what is there behind the hype, to go hyper-local – (oh oh, is this getting hyperbolic!?!) - then you have to do some homework, be somewhat analytical, and go beyond the mass-media, obvious "sites".

First stop: the streets. No, not the Streets of San Francisco; the Streets of Silver Spring!... Walk around. Get to know the area on foot. Don't be afraid; most of those dogs on leashes do not bite - except maybe my fat, blind Chihuahua. As great as all the hi-tech toys might be, there's nothing like going hi-touch and simply walking around. You'll be amazed how far a mile (20 minute walk) gets you in Silver Spring. (There's a blog (if not an app) for that: HERE.)

Back to the virtual world: Have you visited our imperfect, incomplete and somewhat out of date "List of Lists" blog posting? It provides you direct links to many sites that provide all sorts of goodies (i.e. useful information.) Link HERE.  What sites do you want to list your event on? Which organizations have Facebook pages? What are the ‘must visit web-sites’? Where are all the blogs in Silver Spring? All of that – and much more – can be linked from the “List of Lists” link above. ... By the way, you could do us a great favor letting us know of corrections, additions, etc., to these lists by simply leaving a comment on the blog. We'll take care of it - eventually... (For example, we just (re)discovered that Docs in Progress keeps all their 'class videos' that deal with Silver Spring in one neat YouTube Channel.  See HERE... Also: We'd love to do a list of all the relevant 'Silver Spring Twitters. If you'd like to volunteer to create such a list, send me an e-mail por favor.)

For many folks reading this, what is going on in the "development world" is critically important. While there's no app for that - at least not yet - there is definitively some excellent links that - with a bit of on-line calisthenics - can provide you more info into what is going on in the development world than what you probably care to know.  (Unless of course if you are impacted by one of the many developments approved, seeking approval, or going through conceptual design.) Anyway: questions about development? Start HERE. Again, the list and links are far from perfect. But hopefully they are a "start." (Don't forget to leave a posting if you discover a better mousetrap – or more up-to-date links!)

A while back (on January 8, 2013), the Planning Department did a session outlining all developments in downtown Silver Spring that are under construction and/or in the planning process... See the PowerPoint presentation HERE... You may also want to view another presentation we did which places these developments "in context"... You can find that presentation HERE

Bonus: Want to learn about your new County (or simply reconnect with that world beyond the beltway and/or - dare we say - Bethesda?) Check out this guide. The Conference and Visitors Bureau (CVB) of Montgomery County has published a Visitor Guide.  View it HERE.  Make sure you see the Silver Spring section and the downtown section... Lots of neat info that you may or may not know about... 

HOWEVER: Please NEVER count on only the info on the above sites!... The ‘holy grail’ of a single portal for all the information relevant to everyone simply does not exist. (Sorry Google!)… To get a sense of what is going on relevant to your special wants and needs, you will have to work at it… There’s no substitute for that. Sorry.


Now, say all you want to know is "how and where can I plug in?" (I don't think THAT line is in a song - at least not yet.) Then, sign up for our occasional e-blast that tries to capture relevant community meetings, dialogues, gatherings, and celebrations - as well as news items meaningful to civic matters. Go HERE to sign up. (We promise it is easy to unsubscribe if these e-blasts get to be spam for you.)

If you are into e-subscriptions via e-mail, the County offers an array of opportunities to know more about various departments, issues, and much more... To see the full 'menu' (list of available newsletters) go HERE

  • 3-1-1 for COUNTY INFORMATION on most anything
  • 240-777-0311 Alternate 311 number (if you are calling from areas adjacent to, near to, or from other counties)
  • 9-1-1 for life threatening EMERGENCY
  • 240-773-TIPS (8477) for ANONYMOUS CRIME TIPS
  • 301-279-8000 to contact the police for NON-emergencies
  • 240-876-2911 (Urban District HOTLINE) for downtown issues needing immediate attention.  Downtown Hot-Line. Use ONLY in downtown, please. This ‘hot-line’ gets you in touch with our ‘Red Shirts’ for anything related to “clean & safe” in downtown Silver Spring. (And, did you know that if your battery is dead they can help you with that too?)
  • 301-949-3010 Park Police- 24 hours  
  • 301-670-8080  Parks Service Center – problems or repairs in parks (Callers will get a repair ticket # they can track)
  • Sign up for Alerts (NOTE: If you have not signed up for these Alerts yet, please consider doing so NOW.)
  • Main County “Portal”
  • Mobile link to downtown establishments directory


If you've read this far you are obviously highly interested in this stuff, have an inquiring mind, or simply care about your community and want to help make it better. Well, in that case here are our FANTASTIC FOUR practical and pragmatic advice for getting to know your community:

[1] Talk to your neighbor(s) and ask them about the neighborhood association in your neck of the woods. 

Some are great; others not so much so. All are led by people that care and want to be part of this effort to make things better. (Make sure you inquire about the listservs, facebook pages, etc.!)

[2] Ask around in your faith community, affinity group, yoga class, the guy at the Seven Eleven or laundromat, your hairdresser, or the soccer coach. 

That is, nothing (nada!) replaces people-to-people "hi-touch" good ol' fashion conversation… For example, hangout in your local watering hole, neighborhood store, or community co-op…  You’d be surprised at what you’ll learn there!

[3] Volunteer with a locally serving non-profit. 

National and international efforts are great. But, if you want to get to know your own community, seek out volunteer opportunities with one of the many (many!) wonderful locally serving non-profits in our area. I bet you there’s a locally serving non-profit for whatever interests you. Youth, arts, elderly… Whatever!

[4] Attend a meeting of one of the area's major Advisory Groups:

Montgomery County has many "Boards, Committees, and Commissions" that provide opportunities for community members to participate in the civic discourse and provide advice to the elected local officials. These meetings are OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Everyone is invited welcome to attend. There are four Advisory Groups that are of particular relevance to the Silver Spring Regional Area. These include:
  • Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board - Meets 2nd Monday of each month*, 7:00 p.m. at the Civic Building (Committees meet 4th Monday of each month*. 7:00 p.m.) See HERE for more. 
  • Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee - Meets 3rd Thursday of each month*, 3:30 p.m., at the Urban District Office (at the Fire Station.) See HERE for more. 
  • Silver Spring Arts & Entertainment Advisory Committee - Meets 2nd Tuesday of every other month*, 7:00 p.m. at the Civic Building. See HERE for more.
  • Silver Spring Transportation Management District - Meets 2nd Thursday of each month*, 8:00 a.m., at the Discovery Communications Building. See HERE for more.

(*Some months may change the exact date of the meetings due to Holidays. Details are usually provided far in advance through this e-blast.) {See HERE for complete list of all "B/C/C" in the County... See below for current vacancies. Application is open to all County residents.}

You might be surprised about what you'll learn there too! (If you sign up for our e-blasts you'll get reminders of these exciting meetings.)

…hope this is helpful to you.

See you around Silver Spring,

Reemberto Rodriguez, Regional Director

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