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Taking Life Slow in Silver Spring

Good Hope Estates homeowner Dawn Watson wants the cars and buses on Rainbow Drive to slow down.
Good Hope Estates homeowner Dawn Watson wants the cars and buses on Rainbow Drive to slow down. (By Tony Glaros For The Washington Post)

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And it has been great for the parents, too. "On our street, everybody has stayed."

When Gotwols, 65, a painter, isn't working in acrylic or oils in her home studio, she and some pals happily carry on an almost-daily tradition: "Three of us on Colesberg Street have had tea at 4 o'clock for 37 years."

Meghan Lee, 33, grew up in Good Hope Estates. She spent a lot of time tooling up and down the streets on "our Big Wheels and bikes," she said. "We would fish and ice-skate a little bit, but mostly just hang out."

Lee, the mother of 10-month-old Graham, was recently visiting her parents' home in the neighborhood, where her father, Kearn Lee, still operates a dental office.

The University of Maryland architecture graduate now lives in Santa Monica, Calif., where she designs museum exhibits. Besides missing the carpet of green landscape back east, Lee has found the people around Washington to be "friendlier, more down to earth -- and more conservative" than those near Los Angeles.

Lee's sister, Colleen Smith, 28, a science teacher at her alma mater, Briggs Chaney Middle School, said the school was not as diverse then as it is now "and definitely not as crowded." Like her older sister, Smith said her childhood featured "running around the neighborhood and playing in the pond and the creek. And there were no speed bumps or stop signs."

For Ken Barnes, having a back yard that overlooks the community's main attraction, its giant, shrub-shrouded pond, is a real stress reducer after a long day's commute to his job near Union Station. His wife, Cathleen, works in Crystal City for the Environmental Protection Agency.

At first glance, the shimmering pond appears to be a natural body of water, the domicile of assorted waterfowl. In reality, it's a storm-water-management facility owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Barnes said. Hikers can also follow a path through the neighborhood that parallels Paint Branch, a tributary of the Anacostia River. The path winds up at Maydale Nature Center, a few miles away.

Cathleen Barnes said she and her husband love to watch birds from the deck. "There are several red-shouldered hawks nesting," she said, "and the pond has a great blue heron."

Their son, Mike, a student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, was busy cleaning the windows of his 1993 Geo Prism. "It's a nice respite from the city," he said, rag in hand. "It's really laid-back. I take walks with the dogs, and there are a lot of nice parks. And I've grown up here with a lot of kids."

Round Oak Missionary Baptist Church, near Spencerville Road, predates the subdivision by about 100 years. Michael Withers, a member of the board of directors, said Good Hope Estates has helped transform the area. "When it was predominantly black -- I hate to say it -- we didn't get many amenities back here. If you mentioned Good Hope or Spencerville, it had a stigma. That has changed. This is a very desirable area now."

Withers, 46, a cost engineer and construction manager, said that when he was growing up, the area was strictly rural, with only an occasional car driving past. "Now it's very diverse, but it still has a rural feel to it."

However, these days there's a lot more than the occasional car. Living across the street from the middle school, Dawn Watson has witnessed her share of school buses and cars exiting the school parking lot and speeding down Rainbow Drive.

"Buses fly past so fast," she declared, "they look like the bus is going to tip over."

Fed up, Watson, 49, earlier this year carved out a sign from corkboard and placed it in her front yard. It says: "Speed Limit 25/Be a Good Example."

The sign has drawn attention. "People smile and wave as they go by."


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