Our Environmental Management Committee, or EMC, has contributed a lot to Kentlands in recent years. Its work is ubiquitous, highly visible, and yet often unknown, a combination that seems unlikely but is true, nonetheless, because the results are so familiar. Take the annual flowers that appear each spring, summer and fall in the flower beds at the major entrances to our community: the EMC works with our landscaping contractor to find the mix of plants that will keep our community looking bright and beautiful as soon as someone enters it.
The EMC (Diane Faulkner, Charlie Green, Susan Moran, Paul Shields, Larry Dildine, Dean Roy and Glen Palman with Steve Longley as the Board Liaison) works primarily in the late-winter, spring, summer, and early-fall as needs are identified, landscaping plans are made, work is performed, and results evaluated. It is again meeting monthly after a winter “vacation.”
The EMC’s biggest task in recent memory was the remediation of the landscaping “between the walls” along Quince Orchard Road when the structural repairs were complete. This was not a simple job. The Kentlands Citizens Assembly (KCA) had promised the City of Gaithersburg that we would replace the almost 100 trees that had to be removed so that the work could be done but engineering evaluations showed that a part of the damage to the wall had been caused by those very trees and where they had been located. It was not an unimportant job, either, as the wall complex and landscaping are among Kentlands most visible locations and the landscaping was the final step in transforming the wall from the embarrassment, and near disaster, of collapse into a positive branding opportunity. The EMC, working with our landscaping contractor, Community Landscaping Services, rose to the challenge with an excellent, yet affordable, solution.
Much of the EMC’s current work is tied to tracking our community’s landscaping maintenance needs. For example, the plantings along many of our sidewalks and stairways belong to the KCA. These range from azaleas along a sidewalk off Ridgepoint Place to rose bushes along the Rose Walk. After twenty years of beautiful service, many of these plants must be replaced by young ones.
The berm that provides sound deadening and a visual barrier between Darnestown Road and the Kentlands has a slightly different problem: the trees that were young, and short, a quarter century ago are mature and tall now. While their upper sections are healthy, they have few lower branches to provide a barrier so they no longer function as planned. The EMC has a plan for new plantings to provide an undergrowth that will return the berm to its proper function and beautify Beckwith Mews in the process. Phase one is already complete.
Some of the EMC’s work is truly “environmental” in nature. Our Turf Working Group of a few years ago led an effort to shift the Kentlands landscaping processes from “conventional” ones that relied on commercially produced weed control and fertilizer products, products sometimes associated with health hazards, to natural materials and environmentally based processes. The results attracted the attention of Montgomery County and City of Gaithersburg civic leaders and provided the EMC with the basis for our current landscaping contract which emphasizes natural materials and eschews hazardous chemicals on lawns where children play or pets roam regularly.
Not all of the EMC’s challenges have been overcome quite yet, however. The KCA maintains our community’s curb strips, those narrow bands of (mostly) turf between the sidewalk and the curb, as a courtesy to our homeowners. Many of these areas are problematic for a combination of reasons: a lack of sun; heavy traffic; poor soil conditions; irregular watering at best; and a need for ground cover that does not impede pedestrians are good examples of the challenges curb strip plants face. The EMC has evaluated a number of ground cover plants, including some tested in problematic locations along Chestertown Street, but has not yet been able to identify a suitable solution.
The EMC has done a great deal to keep Kentlands beautiful and to make it better for all of us but its job can never be finished. If you would like to help perform its mission, please contact Barney Gorin to volunteer.