Category Archives: Takoma Park Newsletter

Category for original news items as well as Takoma Park Newsletter articles that are copied into takomaparkmd.gov as web content.

Taylor Johnson Takes Helm as Takoma Park Poet Laureate

 

Most small cities across the country don’t have their own poet laureate, but Takoma Park is different.

Since the program’s inception in 2005, the Takoma Park poet laureate has served as the City’s ambassador to promote public appreciation of poetry and support a creative community for local poets. The poet laureate also helps organize the City’s popular Takoma Park Arts poetry reading series, which features free poetry readings at the Takoma Park Community Center by poets from across the D.C. area.

The Takoma Park Arts and Humanities Committee unanimously recommended Johnson as the City’s next poet laureate based on his selection by a subcommittee led by outgoing Poet Laureate Kathleen O’Toole. The subcommittee reported that Johnson “has the heart, vision, and skills to collaboratively weave poetry into the fabric of Takoma Park and harness the power of the arts to help build community.”

The City Council unanimously approved Johnson’s appointment at a Council meeting on Sept. 28. Johnson, who will be paid a $2,000 annual honorarium from City funds, will serve a three-year term beginning Oct. 1.

After growing up in the D.C. area, Johnson moved from New Orleans to Takoma Park this year with his wife. He has led poetry workshops at schools and colleges in the D.C. area, and his work has been published in many journals, including The Paris Review and Tin House.

Johnson has received several fellowships and residencies and currently serves as the inaugural poet-in-residence for the Guggenheim Museum. His first book of poetry titled Inheritance was named a Best Poetry Book by the New York Times in 2020.

Johnson spoke recently with the City’s Arts and Humanities Coordinator Brendan Smith about his work as a poet. You also can learn more about him at taylorjohnsonpoems.com.

When did you first start writing poetry and what sparked your interest?

Johnson: I had an interest in poetry when I was 15 years old and was taken with the language of John Donne and Gwendolyn Brooks. Then I found more contemporary poets to study, including Dawn Lundy Martin, Terrance Hayes, and Carl Phillips. Around that time, I also was a member of the D.C. youth slam poetry team. I studied poetry in college and am grateful for where that deep study continues to lead me.

How can poetry influence or inspire people?

Johnson: Poetry attunes people to the beauty, complexity, and deep emotion present in everyday living. Poetry can inspire readers to speak about their identities, their loves and losses, and their joys and hardships.

As a poet, I’m moved by how reading another poet’s work opens me deeply to my own language, a sense of being beheld as a member of this universe. Poetry illuminates the spiritual possibilities of color, tessellations of line and form, unuttered vernaculars of beauty in the natural world, and tensions between self and society.

What projects would you like to develop to encourage poetry writing by residents?

Johnson: I would love to lead some nature-based poetry walking tours utilizing our great trail system. I’d also enjoy updating the poem signs around Takoma Park to reflect a more diverse range of contemporary voices with a focus on local poets.

I also am interested in creating a youth poet laureate position that could work with me to make poetry books and hold youth poetry workshops in local schools and libraries. Finally, I would like to hold poet laureate “office hours” at local farmers markets and other events where I could suggest poems and poets as well as lend or give away poetry books.

What are some common misperceptions about poetry, and
how can we address them?

Johnson: Poetry can be a daunting art form to take in because it’s often seen as having a “right way” to read it, which isn’t true. There’s such great openness in the language of poems, but I think it requires a level of humility and dedicated time in the approach.

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to write poetry but has never tried?

Johnson: Read and find people who want to discuss poems. That feels like the most important part, observing your language and the language of others and then joining that great conversation.

 

 

This article was featured in the October 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.

City Exploring Strategies to Invest in the Rec Center

 

Big things are in store for the Takoma Park Recreation Center, with the City mulling plans to renovate the aging facility. There is even the possibility of getting an entirely new recreation building on the horizon.

“The building was originally built in the 70s,” said Ira Kowler, Takoma Park’s economic development manager. “It’s old, it’s a one-story building with a basketball court and some multi-purpose rooms, but it needs some TLC. For the past half-decade, the City’s been trying to think creatively about the potential that this site has and the potential it has to meet a lot of needs for the City and community at large.”

The City took control of the recreation center at 7315 New Hampshire Avenue from Montgomery County about two years ago as part of a land swap arrangement, unloading forested area for the 1.8-acre plot and 10,000 square-foot building. The arrangement was made under the condition that the City would still provide recreation facilities. “The City really acquired the building with the intention of improving the recreation services and facilities and serving the goals of our Housing and Strategic Development plan from 2019 to produce more affordable housing throughout the city,” Kowler said.

In 2021, Takoma Park partnered with the urban consulting practice Brick & Story to create an engagement plan to ask the community what they want to see in a recreation center and to use the space to its full potential. “A lot of folks wanted new programming and different hours—including more evening hours—more fitness rooms, a weight room, exercise room, and fitness classes,” Kowler said. “There was some broad interest in having more flexible space and potentially more uses of space, whether that’s a café or open community space or housing.”

Part of the funding for the first rounds of improvements to the building will be from $175,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to be used for the short-term improvements needed on the existing structure, such as updating the air conditioning in the building and fixing roofing and other issues.

The City was also awarded $145,000 through a state grant for predevelopment work on the site. Part of the predevelopment work is looking into a public-private partnership with the possibility of a ground-floor recreation center and multi-floor mixed-use space above it.

“The City is excited to take the next step in figuring out what an open private-public process might be,” Kowler said. “We are moving forward with gauging interest in whether a bigger development is something that’s possible on the site under the condition that we get a bigger and better recreation center.”

No matter what the future holds, the City plans to work hard to minimize any impacts and keep services running as smoothly as possible during the process. “It’s a long process, and the building will be around for a while regardless of what happens,” Kowler said. “Now we’re at an exciting next step in the process with funding for immediate work that must be done and funding for larger development opportunities. The services are No. 1, and any sort of process would have to account for not disrupting those services. The ultimate goal is to get a better rec center.”

 

 

 

This article was featured in the October 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.

Capital Bikeshare Station Temporarily Removed on October 5

 

In the process of clearing the site for the Takoma Maryland Library reconstruction project, the Philadelphia & Maple Ave Capital Bikeshare Station (#32010) will be temporarily removed and placed into storage for the duration of the construction. The station will be removed on Wednesday, October 5.

City and County staff identified a number of potential alternative locations, both near the Community Center and elsewhere in the community. However, none met the engineering, safety, or connectivity criteria for the Capital Bikeshare program.

Other Nearby Bikeshare Stations

The nearest alternative stations are at:

  • Maple & Ritchie Ave (0.3 miles)
  • Carroll & Ethan Allen Ave (0.4 miles)
  • Takoma  Metro Station (0.6 miles)
  • Carroll & Westmoreland Ave (0.7 miles)
Contact

For questions or concerns, please reach email the Takoma Park Planning Division or call 301-891-7119.

 

This article was featured in the October 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.

Moving Day Has Arrived! A New Chapter in the Library’s Story

 

Finally! Construction is about to begin on the new library building. After years of planning and debate, it’s really happening. Everyone at the library and computer center is looking forward to more space for books, staff, and patrons, as well as a new building that is ADA compliant and up to code. While we wait for our new building to be built, we must have someplace to call home, someplace for our patrons to visit and find books and other materials.

The library and computer center are closed for the entire month of September as we prepare to move into new, temporary space. Check our website for the new location’s address. We anticipate opening there at the beginning of October. Here’s what you need to know while we are closed:

  • We will automatically renew any materials you have checked out until the temporary location opens.
  • Please do not try to return books! Hold onto your materials until the temporary location opens. If you have special circumstances, such as moving away, please email us, and we will make arrangements for your books’ return.
  • All our online resources will be available during the closure. If you need help with them, email us.
  • Books-to-Go (curbside) and Books-to-You (delivery for Takoma Park residents only) will be suspended during the move.
  • For printing needs, Montgomery County Libraries have wireless printing available for a small fee. Closer to the Community Center, there are some local businesses that provide this service. Takoma Business Center at 7304 Carroll Ave., the UPS Store at 6955 Willow Ave. NW, and Community Printing at 6979 Maple St. NW, are a few.
  • Programs! Canta Juego will continue online. Jump Start with the Arts will be held outdoors in the held on Maple Ave. at Sligo Creek Parkway; Yard Dramas, Wednesdays at 11 a.m., will be at Crossroads Farmers Market. All other programs will be suspended until the library opens in the temporary location. See www. tinyurl.com/tplibraryevents.
  • The Child & YA Team will take some time to adjust to the new space and reimagine programming in the future. Regular programs, like Neighborhood Circle Time and Scribbler’s Cabal: Sketch Club will be on hiatus until further notice. Please share your feedback to help shape the future of our programs by filling out our survey!

Here’s what you need to know once we’re open at the new location:

  • Check our website for program information, including locations and start dates.
  • The hours will be the same as at the old building: Monday – Thursday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Friday – Sunday, 12–6 p.m. The library and computer center now have the same hours.
  • The phone number (301-891-7259) will remain the same.
  • Books-to-Go (curbside) and Books-to-You (delivery for Takoma Park residents only) will resume when the library reopens.

You can always reach us by email, and if you have questions about the move or the new building, email us at newlibrary@takomaparkmd.gov!

 

This article was featured in the September 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.

Get to Know Our Bootcamp Instructor: Q&A with Jeremy Sherron

 

The Takoma Park Recreation Center would like to spotlight one of our newest instructors, Jeremy Sherron. Jeremy teaches bootcamp classes at the Takoma Park Recreation Center on Tuesdays and
Thursdays from 6:30–7:30 p.m. Jeremy showcased his skills and led a free demonstration at our annual Fitness Expo this past April. During the Expo, you could easily see Jeremy’s passion for fitness. This Summer 2022 season was his first time teaching with Takoma Park Recreation, and he is looking forward to having more successful classes in the future. Please read a little more about Jeremy or stop by the Recreation Center on Tuesday and Thursday evenings to meet him in person.

Q: Tell us about your background. Where did you get your interest in fitness?
A: I am the director and manager of Everest Wellness. With a degree in health care management from New York University, I have years of experience in corporate wellness and fitness. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School, and spent the next 12 years working as a lab technician while taking classes and studying. Following graduation, I was the wellness coordinator for St. Dominic’s Home for students with physical disabilities in Rockland County and then wellness coordinator and manager of Senior Centers for Catholic Charities in Brooklyn and
Queens. I traveled extensively meeting with companies and conducting wellness fairs. I started my own company, Everest Wellness, to bring wellness engagement to frontline workers. The goal is to attain a work/life balance, become physically fit, and promote good mental health. In 2017, I moved my family to Silver Spring, Maryland, and continued with my company as well as consulting on wellness for Volkswagen and Verizon.

Q: Why do you think it is important for people to work out, especially during this pandemic?
A: Working out and healthy living, as we know, is essential for a healthy lifestyle. As for me, healthy living makes me happy and keeps my mood high, which has been so beneficial through the last few years.

Q: What do you hope people will take away from your class?
A: I hope people will come away with not just physical improvement but also a mental and spiritual lift after they have completed one of my classes. If nothing else, I wish they receive a sense of belonging and meet their need for social interaction.

Q: How do you know when you’ve had a successful class?
A: I know my class is successful when I see people sweating at the end of every class. A good indicator that participants are enjoying the class is when I see them keep coming back and registering for
more sessions.

Q: What other hobbies or interests do you have besides fitness?
A: Outside of fitness, I have a passion for music; I am an accomplished pianist.

Q: What should students bring with them to your bootcamp class?
A: Students should bring hand weights, an exercise mat, a water bottle, and a positive attitude.

Jeremy will be teaching Bootcamp classes throughout the year. Log into ActiveNet to register or stop by the Recreation Center and our staff would be happy to assist you with registration. We look forward to seeing you soon!

 

This article was featured in the September 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.

Adventist Healthcare Closes Takoma Park Urgent Care Center

Adventist Healthcare has permanently closed its urgent care facility at 7600 Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park as of Aug. 19.

The nonprofit health services organization based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, announced that a new primary care office will open nearby in September at 7610 Carroll Avenue, Suite 410, in Takoma Park.

Adventist Healthcare said that Takoma Park residents in need of urgent care should visit the Patriot Urgent Care Center at 14421 Baltimore Avenue in Laurel, or for emergency care, should visit the White Oak Medical Center at 11890 Healing Way in Silver Spring.

There are also a host of other urgent care centers around Takoma Park not affiliated with Adventist Healthcare that residents can visit. Those include:

  • Patient First Primary and Urgent Care – Silver Spring at
    8206 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring
  • CVS MinuteClinic at 7939 New Hampshire Ave. in Hyattsville
  • AllCare Family Medicine & Urgent Care at 8455 Colesville Rd.
    Suite 101-A in Silver Spring
  • Family’s Health Care at 8011 New Hampshire Ave. in Adelphi
  • SDM 1-Stop Primary Urgent Care at 6401 New Hampshire
    Ave. #100 in Adelphi

Adventist Healthcare’s new primary care facility opening in September will provide “comprehensive primary care and family medicine services for adults and children in the Montgomery County and Prince George’s County areas across the Washington, DC region,” according to its website.

That care includes same-day sick visits; women’s and men’s health and wellness exams; health physicals, health maintenance, and preventive care geriatric (senior) wellness exams; vaccinations and immunizations, including flu shots; and management for chronic conditions like asthma and allergies, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. For more information on Adventist Healthcare, visit adventisthealthcare.com.

 

This article was featured in the September 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.

City to Offer Free Canopy Tree Plantings

 

The Urban Forestry Division of the City of Takoma Park is announcing an exciting new program called Tree Takoma. Starting in Fall 2022, the City is offering free canopy tree plantings to any interested private property owner within the Takoma Park city limits. We are very excited to be partnering with the DC area’s flagship tree planting nonprofit, Casey Trees, for this program.

Tree Takoma will offer both a tree planting consultation with a Casey Trees urban forester and the tree installation itself, both free of charge. The Casey Trees urban forester will work with you during the consultation to determine the best locations and tree species for your property. The program offers a diverse palette of native canopy trees, which changes from season to season and will be determined at the time of your consultation.

Consultations can be scheduled year-round, and plantings occur during the spring and fall. Trees will be a minimum of 1.5-inch trunk diameter or 6 feet tall and will be installed with a bed of shredded wood mulch and a deer guard to protect the trunk. After planting, your responsibility is to water the trees as they get established and care for them to ensure they lead a healthy and prosperous life.

Casey Trees will typically be in touch within six weeks to schedule a consultation. After the City provides your information to Casey Trees, they will be your contact for all information pertaining to scheduling the consultation, finalizing your tree planting plan, scheduling your tree planting, and addressing any questions you might have pertaining to the tree planting.

Native canopy trees provide numerous benefits to you and the City, including stormwater management, cooling the air, reducing heating, and cooling costs, beautifying the landscape, and more. Since the City only manages approximately 15 percent of the land area in Takoma Park, it is important that we partner with private property owners to plant trees and help in replacing the canopy that is lost each year.

We hope you will join us in this important work of maintaining the urban forest canopy of Takoma Park. To sign up for the program, visit the Tree Takoma webpage to submit an online request or visit the Public Works building at 31 Oswego Avenue for a paper form.

 

This article was featured in the September 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see full list of past newsletters.

Folk Festival Celebrates In-Person Return on September 11

 

The Takoma Park Folk Festival is returning in-person on Sunday, September 11, after two years of virtual performances due to COVID-19.

“We’re calling it ‘regroovinate,’” said Debra St. Charles, this year’s program chair. “It’s a combination of regeneration and groovy … and it represents that we are rejoicing and rebuilding.”

“It’s very exciting,” added Gordon Nimmo-Smith, who oversees sound engineering and logistics. “All of us on the committees love
producing an in-person festival and engaging with our audience.”

Music will begin with the DC Labor Chorus at 10 a.m. and run through 6:30 p.m. at Takoma Park Middle School. As always, the festival will be free, family-friendly, and filled with music, crafts, food vendors, and community information booths.

However, none of the activities will be held indoors. “To provide greater safety from COVID, we are using the school grounds, but not the inside of the school,” explained festival Chair Robin Stearn. Without indoor access, the festival will have four stages rather than the typical six performance venues. But the two “absent” stages will have time slots on the others. “It’s complicated, but we’re working through the logistics,” St. Charles said.

Subtle differences in the program will be evident to long-time visitors this year. “We’ve really tried to present a more diverse lineup… with more people who have not performed before and more styles of music,” St. Charles said.

Among festival first-timers are New Orleans-style blues Sol Roots, award-winning singer-songwriter Jillian Matundan, and bluegrass group No Part of Nothin’. Also, world music group Project Locrea, which won a 2022 Washington Area Music Award, will introduce festival attendees to its fusion sound that jumps across jazz, African, Asian, and Latin American traditions.

Visitors looking for singer-songwriters will be pleased by the return of Michelle Swan and the lush sounds of Quiet the Mountain, a new band of veteran guitarists Christian Alfonso and Jimmy Stewart. Plus, the festival also will welcome a youth rock band, sitarist Sambarta Rakshit, the Washington Revels Maritime Voices, and much more.

The festival’s non-musical activities will be intact, though renovations at the school have led to changes in the festival’s geography, according to Nimmo-Smith. “We will have the full crafts show and about half of the community tables on the basketball courts, and the kids’ games on the tennis courts nearby,” he said. “The Field Stage will return to Lee Jordan Field below the school, opening up more space for the audience.”

Providing the weather cooperates, the festival’s organizers expect a large crowd. “I’ve really enjoyed seeing live music again,” said Stearn, “and I know many other people feel the same way. This is a time for us to celebrate—not just music, but crafts, community groups, food, and friends. It will be so good for all of us to come together again.”

 

This article was featured in the August 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.

Love in the Time of Covid: An Overview of the Pandemic from a Library Perspective

 

I’m writing this while in a COVID-19-induced fog. After two and a half years of this thing, it finally got me, and I have just enough energy to crank out a few words on the topic.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the library has done everything we could think of to help our patrons get through it. I will never forget working on the Circulation Desk on the last day we were open in March 2020. We checked out more than 3,000 items to patrons in one afternoon! I set up an extra check-out station to help move things along, and even so, there were long lines. After we closed that day, the place looked like the aftermath of a 90 percent off sale at Nordstrom Rack: books just tossed every which way, shelves cleared of items. And, if you recall, this was when we thought the lockdown was for a paltry two weeks.

Just four months after that, we partially reopened for service but did not open the building. We introduced Books-to-Go, our curbside, touchless book, and media service. Books-to-Go was the brainchild of longtime librarian Rebecca Brown. As with many innovations that came about because of the pandemic, we have decided to keep this one. We also have decided to keep the book return bin open at all times instead of just when we’re closed to accommodate those who are still uncomfortable coming indoors.

We’ve evolved in our procedures. For example, when it wasn’t clear how the virus was transmitted, we quarantined the books for several days in order for the virus to deteriorate. Once it was clear that this was not a mode of transmission, we stopped doing it.

Our children’s programs went online – Circle Time, Spanish Circle Time, Sketch Club, and so forth. The library’s weekly staff meetings are still online, even though staff has returned to the office. We find that it enables people who may not be scheduled to be in during that time to participate. Oh, and I am writing this and editing the rest of the library’s newsletter items from my bedroom, where I am isolating from my spouse, hoping he doesn’t catch this.

One year after Books-to-Go began, we opened the library building. We had just welcomed a new library director and were saying goodbye to retiring Children and Youth Services Librarian Karen MacPherson. People were cautious about coming back, understandably. We required masks at the direction of the City Manager, and we placed several air purifiers around the library and computer center. The library staff still masks while at the circulation desk to protect themselves and the public. Some programs are still online, while others are in-person, often outdoors. Circle Time is now on the Library lawn unless it rains.

The library has suspended overdue fines during the pandemic. The only fines a patron will accumulate are for lost books. Overdue books will merely keep you from checking out new books. If you can’t find your overdue books, come talk to us! We won’t bite, and we will work with you.

One of our more innovative services to come out of this is the distribution of COVID-19 test kits along with KN-95 masks. In late January of this year, we began to distribute test kits and masks. To date, we have given out more than 10,000 test kits and close to 13,000 masks. We will continue this as long as we’re able and there is a need. Frequent testing is an important tool for containing this disease.

We no longer require masks while in the library and computer center. However, we strongly encourage it and have both adult
and child-size masks to give to patrons. This new variant is highly contagious, and I don’t recommend getting it.

The library staff safety protocols have been so effective that in two and a half years, I am only the second staff member to get COVID-19. I don’t know where I got it; I’m vaccinated and boosted, as is my spouse. I try to follow good masking practices, so who knows? I’m taking Paxlovid, so I should be fine. I’m just so very tired. And congested. Hopefully, by the time you read this, I will be back at work, fully recovered. Note: In case you were wondering about the headline, Love in the Time of Cholera is the title of an award-winning book by Nobel laureate Gabriel García-Márquez.

 

This article was featured in the August 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.

Public Space Management Plan: A History

 

The City is rethinking the way it approaches public space. This includes parks, sidewalks, parking spaces, plazas, streeteries, and more. This is all happening through the creation of a Public Space Management Plan, which will help City Council and staff make better decisions about projects involving public space. The plan is expected to be completed in Fall 2022, but it’s been in the works for a while. Here’s a summary of what’s been done to date!

  • November 2018: The City Council agrees on the need for a public space plan and approves a scope of work.
  • Fall 2019 to Summer 2020: Planning Division staff conduct studies of public park features, levels of resident access to parks, and an inventory of public spaces. [The planning process is delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.]
  • Fall 2020 to Fall 2021: Community input is gathered in the form of an online survey (225 respondents) and an in-person, interactive workshop series.
  • Spring 2022: The City hires the planning firm CHPlanning to help complete the project.
  • Summer 2022: CHPlanning conducts an existing conditions analysis and develops the first draft of plan recommendations. Outreach during this time includes:
    • Additional stakeholder focus groups to improve input from voices not yet well-represented in planning outreach, including youth, apartment, and condo building residents, and
      cross-departmental City Staff
    • Two community workshops (including the one to unveil the draft).
  • Fall 2022 (upcoming): CHPlanning will continue to gather community feedback on the first draft and develop a final set of recommendations to be reviewed and delivered to City Council for approval.

To learn more about the Public Space Management Plan, visit the Public Space Management Plan webpage,  and join us on August 23 for our next public meeting.

 

This article was featured in the August 2022 Newsletter. Visit the Takoma Park Newsletter webpage to see the full list of past newsletters.