Saturday, October 19, 2013


NOTE: This DRAFT is co-authored by Doug Weisburger and Reemberto Rodriguez... We look forward to improving it, adding pictures, and more soon... Your comments are welcome!

Many of us think about the global environmental crisis and wonder what we can do to right all the wrongs that have been imposed on our environment.

We look at the deadlock at the Federal level regarding climate change legislation; we wonder how our efforts to reduce our ecological footprint can make a difference in the big scheme of things…

There is a temptation to throw up one’s hands and say, “I give up; it’s all so overwhelming.” 

Of course, we cannot give up, despite the seemingly intractable problems and despite inaction at the national and international levels.   Indeed, we all need to do our part – government, business, and residents – and we need to act with intention every day.  We are, in fact, global citizens with a global responsibility.

Silver Spring is endeavoring to do its part. 

So many good things have been happening in downtown Silver Spring over the past months that have enhanced the overall livability of this community! Much of this was celebrated at the recent Silver Spring GreenFest (October 5, 2013.)

Like puzzle pieces, individually, these projects and enhancements seem nice enough, but put them all together and we get the full picture of their importance.  They represent the County’s commitment to sustainability, reducing our collective environmental impact and creating a walkable, viable, and vital community with a real “sense of place” where all are welcome.

To kick off the GreenFest we had the opportunity to bring together representatives from the County departments, agencies and private-sector and non-profit partners that have supported that commitment and are responsible for the vibrancy that you feel in downtown Silver Spring

Present in the audience were people waiting for the Fenton Street Market to open, as well as representatives from the primary Silver Spring Area Advisory Groups:
à        Citizens Advisory Board
à        Urban District Committee
à        Arts & Entertainment Committee
à        Transportation Management Committee
The Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce also joined us.

First to be recognized were the green and blue trash and recycling containers – in four languages no less – that were recently installed on Veterans Plaza.  They were purchased by the Department of General Services, represented by DGS Director David Dise, and they are emptied throughout each day by the Silver Spring Urban District, represented by their Chief of Operations Yvette Freeman. A few blocks away additional recycling receptacles were purchased by United Therapeutics  represented by Yuri Van Mierlo.  All the containers feature awareness-raising environmental factoids.

Also on the Plaza you’ll see the larger, gray “Big Belly” compactors. Some were placed here by General Services and some by the Urban District. It is worth noting that both agencies used a County-based small business – Environmental Cost Efficiencies -- that markets the solar-powered receptacles/compactors. 
Throughout the Central Business District, you will be seeing new recycling receptacles.  Though purchased and serviced by the Silver Spring Urban District, credit for this new recycling initiative goes to Silver Spring Green, represented on that day by Ronnie Galvin.

Another popular addition to downtown Silver Spring is the Bikeshare stations – 49 docks spread among three stations conveniently placed to serve the busy heart of Silver Spring.  Thanks to the Department of Transportation, for coordinating the program coming to Montgomery County and Director Art Holmes for joining us!

Throughout the County we have been relentless in our efforts to educate all residents about the importance of pedestrian safety and ensuring that all possible efforts are put forth to help ensure that residents and visitors alike can walk safely in all areas of the County.

In Silver Spring, when DOT resurfaced Fenton Street, they made sure that pedestrian safety features were incorporated throughout the project which will eventually be completed from Wayne Avenue to Cameron Street.  Hats off to DOT and its Pedestrian Safety staff, Jeff Dunckel.

New streetscaping is also changing the look and feel of various parts of Silver Spring.  For instance, the Department of Housing and Community Affairs project at Fenton Village, on the east side of Georgia Avenue is enhancing that.  Rogers Stanley the staff person directly responsible for the Georgia Avenue Streetscape project, has gotten to know all the business in the area very well indeed!

And, the Park and Planning Commission has also been involved in the design of all the pedestrian-friendly streetscape designs, most recently negotiating the Cameron Street project that will connect United Therapeutics with the Transit Station.  Commissioner Casey Anderson, an avid supporter of Bikesharing and former Executive VP of Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board can attest to the many years the community has been working on these type projects.

Another thing we take for granted is being able to use this great Civic Building for public events, community gatherings, private meeting and other occasions.  Thanks for overseeing that operation go to Community Use of Public Facilities, and Eric Rasch who is the new Operations Manager at the Civic Building.

When you come to Silver Spring often, you quickly learn that there is always something going on:
à        the entertainment provided by The Peterson Companies up on Ellsworth Drive by the fountain, thanks to the work of Brittany Frankel, Downtown Silver Spring’s Assistant Property Manger;
à        the ambience performances begun down here around Veterans Plaza a couple time a week by Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. which provide an additional sense of safety and security in the area.  Lisa Martin is their executive director;
à        the FreshFarm Farmers Market there on Ellsworth, happening side by side with the Fenton Street Market here on the Plaza, thanks to Reg Godin and Megan Moriarty respectively.

Also, thanks to the Montgomery County Conference and Visitors Bureau, under the leadership of Director Kelly Groff, a Visitor’s Map of Silver Spring was created in partnership with the Silver Spring Urban District Office, Peterson Companies, and the Silver Spring Synergies Marketing Group consisting of local hotels, restaurants, and businesses interested in promoting Silver Spring’s amenities to both residents and out-of-town visitors. The map also is geared toward business travelers who may be visiting major employers in the area.

Finally, our community is fortunate to have a special group that is everywhere helping to ensure that downtown Silver Spring is maintained in a clean, safe and attractive manner and that a vibrant social and business climate exists: the Urban District’s Red Shirts, Silver Spring’s Clean and Safe Team whose mission is to make sure that all the amenities, upgrades, programs and services occur in a viable, vital area. 

All these agencies, private sector partners, and non-profits are an integral part of the puzzle picture that goes into creating, sustaining and improving a livable community like Silver Spring. It’s the County and your community coming together for an even better Silver Spring.

All of this was highlighted at the 2nd Annual Silver Spring GreenFest, presented through the collaboration of Silver Spring Green, Fenton Street Market and the Department of Environmental Protection, with Director Bob Hoyt, and key staff Doug Weisburger and Jessica Jones.

 “From Awareness to Action for a Sustainable Future” – that was the subtitle and theme for the Silver Spring GreenFest.  And, as the title suggests, the event was about learning and doing.

Silver Spring Green laid out a program schedule that addressed some really significant issues, some of which are uncomfortable to discuss. (That’s okay… In fact, that’s good.  We need to have these difficult conversations.)

The leadership exhibited by Silver Spring Green --  and all the locally based environmental organizations -- indicates a recognition that we cannot rest on our laurels, despite having a pretty impressive track record.

That is why we should take a moment, though -- all of us collectively -- to pat ourselves on the back, at least a little bit.  After all, we have one of the most rigorous stormwater permits in the nation; the County Executive recently signed into law two bills that together protect trees in our County rights-of-way and preserve our tree canopy; the bag tax is helping us to reduce bag litter from our streams; we have a robust Green Business Certification Program ; and we have a nationally recognized recycling program that allows residents and businesses to recycle 58 percent of their waste which has prompted the County to set a goal to recycle 70 percent of the waste stream by 2020..

These are just a few of our accomplishments but they are proof that the pressing issues of sustainability are bringing us together to strengthen our sense of community and build a cleaner future. 

No doubt, however, some of those pats on our backs should be pushes…

And, local jurisdictions must lead the way.  Our challenge, through continuous improvement, innovation and courage, is to create that “county of the future” in which we all live within our means.

Of course, we have a way to go.

But, the GreenFest and  all the other “puzzle pieces” inspire and propel us  -- government, business, residents and civic organizations -- to do even more, and that we continue to cut the path together to create a better world.

1 comment:

Jerry A. McCoy said...

There are also the current nine of twenty planned Silver Spring Heritage Trail. The illuminating text and photos detailing the unknown stories of the people and places of downtown Silver Spring are part of the Silver Spring Historical Society's mission to educate the public about our community's history in hopes of preserving it for future generations.

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