Caroline Freeland Urban Park is a buffer between downtown Bethesda and single-family home neighborhoods to the west. It is also in a prime location for lunchtime business meetings and weekend events.
Next week, Montgomery Parks will continue planning for the renovation of the park (7200 Arlington Rd.) with a community meeting. Parks admits a need to better connect the park to bustling Bethesda, but says it hopes to maintain the one-acre site’s meaning to the local community.
In 1983, Parks bought the land and designed the park to protect the Edgemoor neighborhood from the commercial development going on east of Arlington Road.
But now the space, between Bethesda Library and the Arlington Road Giant, seems like it offers potential for more. It’s a rare example of a large park space in downtown Bethesda:
The goal of this project is to develop an innovative, attractive, and environmentally sensitive design for the long-term renovation of the park. The design process will focus on identifying opportunities to improve the park as an amenity for the local community, while balancing the need to improve connections to the Bethesda Central Business District (CBD). The park’s downtown location offers great potential to create a memorable and unique open space that provides a cohesive and flexible framework to support passive recreational needs and cultural activities.
The community meeting is set for Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Library (7400 Arlington Rd.) The timeline has another community meeting scheduled for March 2014, development of a Preferred Plan over the rest of 2014 and then a presentation of the plan and cost estimates to the Planning Board in winter 2015.
In August, Parks officials spoke about using urban parks as drivers of the nighttime economy, or simply as more innovative civic spaces. That could require keeping parks open after dark. It’s unknown if those around the “buffer” Freeland Park would approve.
Now, the park includes a wooden pavilion, open-air wooden trellis, some retaining walls, planters, sloped lawn, playground and “Bethesda Walk Around” art sculpture. As the Arts and Humanities Council explains, the sculpture includes 14 painted steel figures at the top of a round structure meant to represent people in Bethesda in the 80′s. There are moms with strollers, a businessman-type and even what appears to be a homeless man.
The sculpture was installed in 1989. The playground area was renovated in 2010.
For more information, visit Montgomery Parks’ project website for the park.