West Montgomery County Citizens Association

WMCCA Meeting at the Potomac Community Center

NEXT MEETING: Wednesday, February 12, 2020 – 7:15 p.m.

If schools are closed because of inclement weather, the meeting will be cancelled.

Open Forum Meeting - Bring Your Concerns

Each year we try to devote a meeting to continued discussion of issues we are following as well as concerns raised by members. The Potomac Subregion is threatened by a number of bad ideas with enormous impacts to our way of life. From the proposed widening of 495/270, the reemergence of a possible second crossing, to the all too obvious impacts of climate change such as increased flooding, loss of habitat in parkland, and diseases destroying important tree species. Our community is facing several new proposals for senior living facilities including one on River Road that would replace the long time plant nursery. The use of synthetic turf on playing fields has created unforeseen health issues from heat, runoff, and eventual disposal of toxic waste. Sewer and water category changes have always been at the forefront of our efforts to hold the line on sprawl and protect water quality. Please come and bring your issues. Expect updates and lively discussion.

Forest Bathing (Not What You’re Picturing) - Needs Your Forest

by President Susanne Lee

Results continue to pour in confirming the beneficial effects of getting ourselves outdoors. They demonstrate that spending time in nature can result in improved physical, mental, and emotional health and cognitive functioning. Blood pressure and stress hormone levels decrease and immune systems are strengthened. The minimum amount of time required is pegged at 120 minutes a week, but it can be cumulative - in small chunks. And it can occur in a variety of settings - your yard, pocket urban parks, and along the Canal, not just deep in the redwoods.

However, deep in the redwoods is closer to the concept the Japanese have coined “Forest Bathing”. The emphasis is not just on being outside, but increasing the potential beneficial effects by being outside in a forested area. The objective is to experience the forest with all of our senses including touching, hearing, and smelling, not just seeing. The person is “bathed,” showered down upon, by all aspects of the forest. Research indicates that the forest aroma in particular, yes they bottle it, increases the production of certain beneficial immune cells. Areas with more trees and bigger trees have greater beneficial impacts. And the beneficial effects of exercise were increased when it occurred in forested areas instead of in urban areas with few trees.

So in addition to all the other critical functions trees provide, this is yet another reason why we urge everyone to do whatever you can to stop losing trees, any existing trees, on and off your property. And we urge you to redouble your efforts to plant even more, lots more. Now you will have another reason to feel better when you turn your lawn into a forest. And to increase your impact, when you are deciding what to plant, please take a look at the amazing work and recommendations of Douglas Tallamy, an entomologist at the University of Delaware. Here’s a video of one his lectures to enjoy when you are taking a break from your forest bathing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEhl2ZwzCr4. His focus is not just on native plants, but ones that provide “services.” And not just to support pollination, but insect populations in general. Insects turn into spectacular butterflies and moths and are food for our declining song bird populations. Spoiler alert – oaks and native cherries appear to be the best for our area.

Heritage Gardens LLC

submitted by Susanne Lee

On January 31, 2020 the attorneys for the Heritage Garden developers withdrew their application for a conditional use approval to build a 51 unit townhouse development on this South Glen Road property. This is a huge win for WMCCA and the dedicated neighbors who have opposed this application. While we cannot know the reason the developer decided to withdraw, WMCCA made very strong, compelling arguments in our Motion to Dismiss the application and at the hearing on the Motion before the Hearing Examiner. The developer has withdrawn the application before the Hearing Examiner issued her decision on our Motion. Although it appears the developer may make other proposals for the use of the site, for now we are very happy that the current application was withdrawn and we thank all of the neighbors for their efforts.

Grass is Better Than Synthetic Turf

submitted by Carol Van Dam Falk

It’s the time of the season for state bills to be making their way through committees in Annapolis and this year, the third year of the self-declared climate emergency, we are hoping LR 1967-Use of Public Funds--Playground and Athletic Field Surfaces--Preferences and Prohibitions- makes its way into law.

LR 1967 would restrict the use of state funds for the construction and maintenance of synthetic surfaces (fields and playgrounds) and instead prioritizes and funds state-of-the-art grass and natural materials to build playgrounds and fields. It is cosponsored by House Speaker Delegate Jared Solomon. Delegate Aruna Miller introduced nearly identical language last year, but this time around, momentum is building. At least 10 state lawmakers have expressed their support for the legislation. Plastic synthetic turf is a urethane-backed carpet of colored plastic blades placed on top of a layer of rocks. The plastic contains known toxic chemicals such as heavy metals, phthalates, UV inhibitors, colorants, and flame retardants. Such carpets usually have anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 pulverized, used tires added for cushioning impacts from falls. The tire crumb waste contains additional known toxic substances including lead, mercury, benzothiazoles, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon black (a known carcinogen), and volatile organic compounds like benzene.

A growing number of studies underscore the danger posed by synthetic surfaces to public health and the environment. The turf industry acknowledges that dangerous heavy metals such as lead are found in dust from playing fields. There is no safe level of lead exposure to children according to the CDC. Aside from chemical exposure, safety is a paramount concern, such as over-heating, unexpected failure of infill to cushion falls, sanitation problems (spit, snot, blood that is never cleaned from plastic carpet), and injuries such as skin abrasions, and more frequent joint injury to knees and ankles.

Grass is Better for Our Health & Economy

Natural grass has excelled in recent months on cost, quality, and durability. New grass fields limit or eliminate chemical inputs while providing more durability in most conditions. Unlike synthetic turf, they filter water, oxygenate the air, and provide safe, softer, sustainable surfaces for play. In a change from last season, LR 1967 authorizes funding under Program Open Spaces for lifetime costs for maintenance and upkeep of grass athletic fields and drainage systems. The use of grass helps our local economy. Synthetic turf is not manufactured in Maryland. This change should incentivize county public school systems and sports organizations to install natural grass over unsustainable, unhealthy, and cost-prohibitive synthetic surfaces. We will keep you updated on the progress of LR 1967.

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