GERMANTOWN, Md. (WJLA) – A group of Montgomery County residents say they're fighting to protect what little bit of nature they have left from the county's bulldozers and cement trucks.
Transportation planners in the county are proposing a new four to six lane highway that would run through Montgomery Village between Gaithersburg and Clarksburg.
"We don't have a lot of green spaces like this left close to DC and so this is a treasure and we should be protecting it," said Nat Reid. He runs Dayspring Silent Retreat Center right next to Great Seneca Park. He strongly opposes the planned highway called M-83.
"I think it would be a huge loss for the county and it's an irreversible loss," he said. "It would compromise this retreat center that over 1,000 people visit every year. And, it would diminish the benefits of the park."
County transportation planners say M-83 will greatly improve traffic flow between Gaithersburg and Clarksburg. They also say that if it is not built, traffic along Interstate 270 will increase 46% by 2030.
But, opponent Margaret Schoap, who is part of a grassroots effort to kill the proposed highway, says M-83 will not only ruin forest land, wetlands and parks, it will also hurt hundreds of homeowners who live near the proposed highway.
"This road will be going through well-established, dense neighborhoods in Montgomery Village and ruining many people's lives," said Schoap.
Some residents are also worried about the proximity of the highway to Watkins Mill Elementary School.
Opponent Bing Garthright said, "It will be right at the back of the playground where all the kids go and play their ballgames."
The county says M-83 has been planned since the 1960's and that "all recent development in Clarksburg was approved assuming the roadway would be constructed."
County officials also say, "less than one acre of wetland will be impacted by the project and all impacts to green space will be mitigated."
But, opponents say they are not buying it. They say they would rather improve existing roads and transit services than build a new highway.
The county will be taking public comment until August 21.