It is a rare occasion that a newspaper IS the news of the day

We hope to become your new source of news, information and features about the people and places in the greater Olney area,

New park now open on old site of Farquhar Middle School –

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

Batchellors Forest Local Park, located at the site of the original William H. Farquhar Middle School, is now open.

The former school site on Batchellors Forest Road was acquired by Montgomery Parks from Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) after a new school was built on the adjacent property through a land swap.

The 2005 Olney Master Plan recommended the 17.9-acre property just north of the original school for a park.

The county school system and planning department agreed to the swap. After the new school opened in 2016, the old building was razed and MCPS began infrastructure work on the 20-acre property to build the new park.

Montgomery Parks spokeswoman Melissa Chotiner said the new park includes a large open free-play area and will eventually feature athletic fields.

She said now that the old school building has been removed, environmental improvements have been made, including the repair of a severely eroded storm drain outfall, removal of impervious surface from the stream buffer and new stormwater management to remove runoff pollutants from the parking lot.

She also said the parking lot was renovated and is compliant the American with Disability Act and a circulation pathway was created to access the athletic fields, as well as create a pathway for recreational use.

The athletic fields will be renovated over the next year and are expected to become available for public permitting next fall, she added.


Increased traffic brings challenges to community


While the park is a welcome addition to the community, it could bring additional traffic to rustic Batchellors Forest Road, which is facing significant growing pains.

The Southeast Rural Olney Civic Association (SEROCA) continues to lobby for smart planning and road repairs.

“I am so disappointed with the ‘planning’ that is going on in Montgomery County — performing traffic studies after building three schools, adding a park and quadrupling the homes along a county-designated Rustic Rural Road is like locking the barn door after the horse escapes,” said Meg Pease-Fye, SEROCA’s secretary and its former president. “Who couldn’t see the traffic problems coming? SEROCA members did, and raised concerns time and time again, and now we are paying the price of heavy, fast-paced traffic on a rapidly deteriorating road, which won’t be repaired until the Rustic Roads Advisory Committee takes more time to determine how such repairs can be made and with what materials.”

Increased traffic has also exacerbated problems at the road’s intersection with Georgia Avenue.

Because Batchellors Forest Road traffic cannot make a left turn on Georgia Avenue, the options for drivers wishing to travel south are to either turn right on Georgia Avenue and quickly move across three lanes of traffic to make a U-turn at Emory Lane, or to cut through Olney Manor Park and turn left at the traffic light by the Indoor Swim Center.

In 2016, park officials announced plans to close the gate at Batchellors Forest Road due to the increased amount of cut-through traffic which they say impedes park operations and creates safety concerns for park users.

A community meeting drew a large crowd in opposition to the gate closure. Those who opposed the closing said that while traveling through the park may not be an ideal situation, the gate should remain open until there is a safer alternative for motorists to access the southbound lanes of Georgia Avenue.

Park officials agreed to keep the gate open until traffic studies could be conducted.

SEROCA president Janice Snee said the civic association has reached out over the last several months to county and state agencies to find out the results of any traffic studies and initiatives, but has not been updated on findings or asked to discuss neighborhood access modifications.

Gary Burnett, Montgomery Parks regional operations manager, said the State Highway Administration (SHA) has taken the lead on the issue because it performed

a study of the traffic patterns on both sides of Georgia Avenue.

“We have not made a final decision on the entrance into the park until we hear the final determination on short-term and long-term proposals from the SHA,” he said. “While the information I had was there would be some information provided in October, I have not had any updates from SHA since early in the summer.”

SHA spokeswoman Shantee Felix said that SHA has been working with Montgomery Parks and Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MDOT) on developing short-term solutions to address the cut-through issue.

Advertise With Us

The Greater Olney News reaches more than 20,000 homes and businesses through the U.S. Postal Service and hundreds more are dropped at businesses and popular gathering spots.

For a media kit, deadlines, rates and other advertising information, call 240-454-5648.

Read More