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Sensory Trail at Fairview Urban Park


Fairview Local Park is a 2-acre park that serves both residents and workers due to its location between downtown Silver Spring and the Woodside neighborhood.

The park features an open lawn area for various public events, a playground, and a wooded area on the north side. This park is a relatively recent addition to the M-NCPPC park system and has no paved walkway inside the park.

Project Description

Montgomery Parks is proposing a sensory trail at Fairview Urban Park. This project aims to raise awareness within the blind and disabled communities. The goal is to create an inclusive walkway with multiple sensory stations that promote sensory input, including sight (visual), touch (tactile), hearing (auditory), and smell (olfactory).

The proposed trail will be situated on the sunny south side of the park, adjacent to Spring Street. It will wrap around the west and north edge of the existing playground and extend to the northern edge of the open lawn area, with a portion of the trail offering views of the wooded lower section on the north side of the park. The trail will begin and end at the existing sidewalk on Spring Street.

The sensory trail will be fully accessible. Several interactive sensory stations and seating areas are proposed along the trail to promote sensory inputs. The trail will be paved with hard surfaces including concrete and trail mix and furnished with tactile signs and wayfinding measures. Below is a list of sensory stations proposed for this trail:

  • Music station
  • Tree touch
  • Picture frame
  • Communication Board with sign language and tactile signs
  • Visual and hearing station with hanging wind chimes and decorations
  • Sensory walk with different materials to provide a more challenging walking experience.
  • Seating areas that promote interaction and motion experiences
  • Trellis
  • Planting beds

In terms of parking and park access, there are bus stops at the intersection of Spring Street and Georgia Avenue, approximately 300 feet from the proposed trail entrance. Additionally, a public garage is located across Spring Street on the east side of the park, and metered street parking spaces are available along Spring Street. Montgomery Parks is also proposing one ADA parking space at the trail entrance near the existing playground.

Benefit of a Sensory Trail

  • Provide opportunities for individuals to engage and stimulate their senses, including sight, hearing, touch, and smell. This can be particularly helpful for those who have sensory sensitivities or who may be engaged in sensory-seeking activities (swinging, rocking, spinning, fidgeting, etc.).
  • Sensory trails often include calming and soothing elements like gentle sounds, and fragrant plants, which can promote relaxation and stress reduction.
  • Sensory exploration on these trails can enhance cognitive development, including problem-solving skills, memory, and attention.
  • Sensory trails can encourage physical activity and movement, as individuals explore different textures, terrains, and features. This can improve balance, coordination, and motor skills.
  • Sensory trails are designed to be inclusive and can promote social interaction with peers.
  • Sensory trails incorporate natural elements, allowing people to connect with and appreciate the outdoors and nature. This connection with nature can have mental and emotional health benefits. They can also serve as educational tools, teaching people about the natural world.
  • Sensory trails encourage individuals to explore their environment in a controlled and safe manner, helping them build confidence and independence.

Organizations located near Fairview Urban Park that can benefit from the proposed Sensory Trail:

Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind is located across the street from Spring Street and has been using this park for its school events. A sensory trail will greatly benefit the program by providing a more inclusive outdoor place for the blind community.

SEEC is a nonprofit agency providing community support to people with developmental disabilities. They are located across the street on Georgia Ave, only one block away. The sensory trail proposed in this park will provide a convenient outdoor place to support their program.

Status/Project Update

An on-site community walking tour has been scheduled for Sunday, November 12, 2023, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Fairview Urban Park, located at 8900 Fairview Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910.  Staff will review the concept options and proposed sensory stations for the park.  Montgomery Parks is encouraging interested residents to participate.

Calendar and Meeting Notes

Links to review meeting notes and presentations will be attached to each applicable calendar event as it is scheduled and completed. * Date and time subject to change. Please contact the project manager for updates.

DateEvents and Meeting Notes
Fall 2022Presented the preliminary idea of creating a sensory trail at the park to the Commission on People with Disabilities at their monthly virtual meeting.
January 2023First community meeting held virtually with the blind community to discuss the idea of a sensory trail.
February 2023Launched the Open Town Hall survey. The results of the survey can be found here.
April 2023Second community meeting held virtually. Sensory trail presentation to the Woodside Civic Association.
April 2023Third community meeting held virtually. Presented the proposed Sensory Trail to the National Capital Area Chapter for the American Council of the Blind of Maryland.
Summer 2023Obtained survey for existing site conditions and developed sensory trail concepts.
November 12, 2023Fourth community meeting to take place at Fairview Urban Park where the concept plans will be presented followed by a walking tour.
Winter or Spring 2024Determine project details based on the feedback from the community walk and develop a detailed design.

Last Updated: April 8, 2024