Last year, 125 different bird specifies were spotted at the 140-acre park on Avery Lane, according to the website Save RedGate Park, whose members want to keep the park as natural, open space. Area nature lovers have taken numerous photos of the great blue herons, ospreys, bald eagles, red tail hawks and several types of owls and woodpeckers they have spotted there.
Meanwhile, the mayor and city council members held a work session Feb. 3 to discuss the fate of the park.
Because it was a work session, no formal votes or decisions were made. However, city officials did ask staff to prepare a draft plan of action concerning the park’s future.
Discussion revolved around leaving the land as a park, allowing a veterans home on the site for aging veterans or a combination of the two.
Councilmembers appeared unanimous in their lack of support for allowing a bus depot, homes or commercial shopping there.
“This is the last piece of significant property that is undeveloped in the City of Rockville,” noted Timothy Chesnutt, director of parks and recreation.
She estimated that it would cost about $300,000 to hire experts to come up with a master plan before any work would be done.
No money was allocated in this year’s budget for such a study.
Many residents have requested that the area include walking trails, a nature center, open space and/or a farmer’s market, said Councilmember Monique Ashton.
Gilles pointed out that even if RedGate was left as parkland, “It would still need work.”
Councilman Mark Pierzchala said letting the land go natural would entail uprooting invasive plants and repacing them with native species.
If anywhere from 10 to 25 acres are set aside for a veteran’s home, utilities would have to be added, and Avery Road most likely would need improvements, he said.
The state is seeking a place to build a veteran’s home. Federal law requires that the land be donated.
There would be “a very high cost” to bring water and sewage to the site, noted Council Member Beryl Feinberg.
“Let’s hear from experts,” she said, noting they might have some ideas that members of council did not think of.
But Pierzchala objected, saying that now is not the time to expand the choices or “this will become political.” He said it already was a major campaign issue this past November.
Bringing in housing or more traffic would reduce the number of birds on the property.
According to the Save RedGate Park website, birders realized last summer that the area had become a breeding ground for many bird species, or as they called it “a kind of birding heaven.”
The birders call themselves the RedGate Trailblazers and worked to get the park be designated as a Birding Hotspot on the Cornell Ornithology site, ebird.