Glenmont Forest: Greener Communities, Cleaner Water

A year old Glenmont Forest Green Streets project with flourishing native plants.
October 4, 2023
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Greener Communities, Cleaner Water

Looking at a Green Street project for the first time, you might assume it’s nothing more than pretty landscaping. But it’s what you can’t see–what lies just below the surface (literally!)–where the magic really happens.

A green street rain garden with newly planted native plants.

A Glenmont Forest community Green Streets project when it was completed in June 2022.

A green street rain garden with flourishing native plants.

The same Glenmont Forest community Green Street project as above a year later, September 2023.

Last month, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) staff conducted an inspection of the Glenmont Forest Green Street projects. In the last two years, the community has undergone a transformation. Now areas that were once turf grass bloom with native plants, decorating the landscape and attracting pollinators like bees, butterflies, and even birds, all while working hard to clean our water.

These plantings, or Green Streets projects, are small-scale stormwater facilities built along our roadways in the grassy areas between the curb and the sidewalk. They capture stormwater runoff from streets and sidewalks during storms, reducing the amount of water entering our streams, and, ultimately, improving the health of these waterways.

As rain and snowmelt run down the streets, sidewalks, and driveways, they pick up various pollutants along the way. These can be anything from litter to pet waste to salt. And it’s not just what the water picks up that is a problem either, but also how much and how quickly that water enters our streams. Rather than soaking into the ground, this fast-moving, excess water harms our waterways by causing erosion and sedimentation.

A stomdrain with a marker that reads "Do not pollute! Drains to your local waters!"

Many Green Streets project stormdrains have markers informing residents that anything that goes down the stormdrain–including pollution–ends up in our water!

Glenmont Forest, built in the 1940’s and 50’s, wasn’t constructed with modern day stormwater management practices in mind. This means its streams are more susceptible to the negative impacts of runoff, making the community perfect for Green Street projects.

Now let’s get back to that underground magic I mentioned earlier! Glenmont Forest Green Streets use two main techniques to combat this runoff:

  • Rain gardens (or bioretentions): depressed planting areas with native vegetation and special soil mixtures
  • Tree boxes: trees planted in special soil mixture boxes connected to the stormdrain network

In both of these designs, stormwater is diverted into an inlet opening in the curb and then into the garden or tree box. The water and any pollutants it has carried with it are then absorbed by the roots of plants and filtered through a mixture of highly permeable soils (sand/soil, mulch). This soil mixture contains microbes known to break down pollution through natural biological activity and help the plants absorb nutrients. The runoff is then stored in an underlying gravel layer before slowly soaking into the ground or flowing through an underdrain into the storm drain system.


A diagram showing how water enters and exits a rain garden.

A rain garden facility.

A diagram showing how water enters and exits a tree box.

A tree box.


A Perfect Plant Palette 

The Glenmont Forest green street project includes 53 individual projects. And just like you’re probably thinking, installing that many projects was no easy feat!

In fact, DEP has been working with the community and contract engineers since 2014. After years of experience and working with landscape architects and designers, each project utilizes tried and true green street designs. These designs are comprised of native plants with:

  • A history of success in past plantings 
  • Overall and seasonal aesthetics
  • High salt tolerance
  • High drought tolerance
  • And high deer resistance 

And now, just over one year after the plants’ installation, they are flourishing. Summer has come to an end and the vibrant blue flag iris and mauve clusters of joe pye weed will begin to fade. But asters, with new, small lavender buds, will take their place. And in the cooler months, little bluestem grass will put on its own colorful show, changing from green to a rusty red-orange.

Joe pye weed at the end of summer, just after peak bloom.

Aster blooming at the beginning of fall.

A Recipe for Success

As with any well laid plan, these projects will never be truly complete. Regular maintenance–funded by the Water Quality Protection Charge is key to their ongoing success.

Every month, a DEP-hired maintenance contractor visits each project to:

  • Remove weeds
  • Remove trash and debris, such as sediment and leaves
  • Replace plants as needed, removing diseased or dying plants
  • Carry out additional as-needed seasonal maintenance, such as edging, pruning, and watering

Collectively, these projects not only help improve the health of local streams, but, on a larger scale and long-term basis, translate to better health for the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

This project wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the Glenmont Forest Neighbors Civic Association and the patience and support of the community during the construction phase of the project.

Want to see the Glenmont Forest Green Streets for yourself? Grab an umbrella on a rainy day and take a stroll through the neighborhood to see the projects in action!


What Can You Do?  

Residents can also help reduce stormwater pollution by installing stormwater practices on their property through several of the County’s programs listed below. Residential programs to improve landscaping, lawn or energy use within the home are also available, including ways for residents to volunteer for green initiatives.


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