Willett Branch is a small stream in the Westbard area of Bethesda. It's been much mistreated over the years, now running more like a concrete drainage trench than a stream. But the Westbard Sector Plan calls for that to change. It proposes a naturalized Willett Branch creek as the center of a new linear park through Westbard. This park would connect to the Capital Crescent Trail and possible include a hard surface spur trail leading from the Capital Crescent Trail to the Whole Foods site as part of the Willett Branch Urban Greenway.
The Willett Branch Greenway will reveal and naturalize the forgotten Willett Branch stream to create an open space corridor, providing the Westbard community with access to the stream, native wetland plants and forested areas. The Greenway will also create critical pedestrian linkages between River Road and Westbard Avenue, and to the Capital Crescent Trail.
A couple of projects are currently working their way through the Montgomery County planning process that will impact the Greenway, the CCT and biking in the area.
First is the Westbard Self Storage facility. Bethesda Self Storage Partners LLC wants to build this facility on a plot that abuts the trail just south of the McDonald's on River Road. That project will build a new east-west road and with it a minimum 12‐foot‐wide shared‐use path to connect the existing Capital Crescent Trail and River Road sidewalk to the facility and the Willett Branch Greenway. They also plan to donate a parcel of land to M‐NCPPC, for future implementation of the Willett Branch Greenway. The pathway, with the CCT on the right, is seen below.
The Little Falls Watershed Alliance, an environmental group based in Chevy Chase, says the existing plans will not do enough to revitalize the stream.
“The Westbard Self Storage facility will be adjacent to the heart of the new Willett Branch Park. How the stormwater is managed, how the buffer is treated, how the landscaping is done, and how the park is accessed will all have a huge impact on the success of the new park and restoration of the Willett Branch,” Sarah Morse, the alliance’s executive director, wrote last month to the county’s planning staff.
Though it seems that later plans addressed some of this
Environmental advocates on Thursday celebrated the contribution of the first section of the greenway, a major priority in the Westbard Sector Plan finalized last year.
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is,” said Sarah Morse, executive director of the Little Falls Watershed Alliance.
However, she suggested some changes to the stormwater management plan for the site. The developer has planned to install planter boxes on the roof to capture and filter the rainwater; Morse said this method would not allow the rain to soak into the ground, thereby supplying the Willett Branch with purified water.
Members of the Macedonia Baptist Church in Bethesda have pressed for more action to protect the site of a historic black cemetery in the area. It isn’t enough to give the county parks system a .39-acre parcel believed to contain some of the cemetery, argued church member Marsha Coleman-Adebayo.
Planning staff pointed out that Bethesda Self Storage is contributing $45,000 for an archaeological study of the site.
The other project, the Westwood Shopping Center, is on the other side of Willett Branch from this one. It too would donate some land to the Greenway, and build some pathway
It would also build a separated bikeways along both sides of Westbard Avenue and add bikeshare stations.
Further upstream, the same developers - Equity One - are proposing a Tower. LFWA is opposing that development, and it is being considered separately.