Where We Live: Kid-friendly Indian Spring


David, Nathan and Siena Fouse and Jill Ortman-Fouse (L-R) pose in the front yard of their Indian Spring home on Saturday, July 16. (Photo by Amy Reinink FTWP) (Amy Reinink FTWP/PHOTO BY AMY REININK FTWP)
July 29, 2011

Indian Spring’s school bus stop is governed by a simple rule: No child left behind.

The rule, which underscores the deep sense of community in the neighborhood of roughly 800 Colonial-style houses just inside the Beltway in Silver Spring, means that if one kid’s parent is running late, another kid’s parent will cover.

“Every couple weeks, I call Ann, or Jim, or Liz, or another neighbor, and say: ‘Hey, can you grab my kids at the bus stop? I’m running 15 minutes late,’ ” said Scott Noyes, 53, an agent with W.C. & A.N. Miller Realtors who has lived in Indian Spring for 11 years. “It’s that kind of neighborhood. You’re never at a loss for someone to feed your cat when you go on vacation.”

Jill Ortman-Fouse, 47, recalls picking up on Indian Spring’s kid-friendly, low-key vibe when she first drove through the neighborhood a dozen years ago.She and her husband, David Fouse, were searching for a house suitable for a young family.

“We saw lots of plastic junk — kids’ toys — in people’s front yards, and saw lots of progressive bumper stickers on people’s cars,” said Ortman-Fouse, a team-building and coaching consultant who serves as president of the Indian Spring Citizens Association. “I thought, ‘This is looking good.’ People are really down-to-earth here. It’s not a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ kind of place.”

At an open-house meeting with Indian Spring residents, she learned the neighborhood’s laid-back friendliness extended to social activities such as “mommy happy hours” and neighborhood potluck dinners.

Those social activities now include a variety of events hosted by the Indian Spring Civic Association, which residents said is also highly active in local land use and politics.

In the spring, residents can sample fare from a variety of local restaurants at the Taste of Indian Spring, held in the Indian Spring Recreation Center. The Fourth of July brings a parade during the day and a talent show at night. In the fall, there’s a chili cook-off whose winner gets the “golden ladle” award — “and bragging rights for the rest of the year,” Ortman-Fouse said. In the winter, the neighborhood hosts a holiday party that includes the lighting of both a Christmas tree and a menorah.

The Highland View Elementary School, “a tiny little school with tons of parent-teacher involvement,” also serves as a center of community, Noyes said.

Most of the homes in Indian Spring were built in the 1940s around Indian Spring Country Club, which relocated when the Capital Beltway was built in the 1960s, said Tony Hausner, past president of the Indian Spring Civic Association.

Ortman-Fouse said the Silver Spring YMCA, which sits on the site once occupied by the country club, still serves as a sort of community gathering place, as do Sligo Creek Trail and Northwest Branch Trail, both located a short jog from Indian Spring.

“You can’t run along Sligo Creek Parkway without running into at least one of your neighbors,” Ortman-Fouse said.

About a dozen residents even trained for and participated in the Half Full Triathlon in Ellicott City last October together, Ortman-Fouse said.

And when Indian Spring resident Holly Rothrock co-founded the D.C. Ladies Arm Wrestling league, “a bunch of moms dressed up and arm-wrestled for charity at the American Legion in D.C.,” Ortman-Fouse said.

It doesn’t take a high-profile fundraising event to get residents together socially.

“You’ll be walking through the neighborhood on a summer day, and see someone sitting out front with a beer, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m going to fire up the grill — want to come over?’ ” Noyes said.

There’s plenty to do outside the neighborhood boundaries, too.

“You’ve got the AFI Silver Theatre and a lot of great restaurants five minutes away in downtown Silver Spring,” said Hausner, 68, a retired health policy analyst who has lived in the neighborhood for 34 years.

Indian Spring’s location just inside the Beltway and its proximity to two Red Line Metro stations “is huge,” Noyes said.

“The Beltway is never a box of chocolates, but I can get to it in 30 seconds in two different ways without having to deal with the southbound traffic through Four Corners,” the intersection of University Boulevard and Colesville Road, Noyes said.

That proximity makes the neighborhood vulnerable to occasional car break-ins and other petty crime, Noyes said.

Other downsides include the hassles of living in the older, three-bedroom, one-bathroom Colonial-style houses that make up most of the neighborhood’s housing stock.

“We have very small bedrooms, no closets, and very few of us have a garage or driveway,” Noyes said. “The houses are fine. It’s the community that we really like, and the small houses are greatly outweighed by the community itself.”

Amy Reinink is a freelance writer.

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