Where We Live

In Arcola, Suburbia Meets Nature

By Amy Reinink
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, September 5, 2009

Residents of Arcola, a Montgomery County neighborhood bordering Wheaton Regional Park, know proximity to nature has its drawbacks.

Deer chomp flowers and vegetable gardens. Leaf cleanup in the fall takes days. In the summer, sunlight shining through the thick, leafy tree canopy can cause rooms to acquire a distinctive green glow.

Residents also contend with the occasional uninvited houseguest from the park, including, in at least one instance, a flying squirrel.

But for residents willing to accept those minor downsides, Arcola offers access to playgrounds, a nature center, botanical gardens, and miles of hiking and biking trails, plus a tree canopy in the neighborhood that rivals that over the park itself.

"The trees really add to the quality of your existence," said Jeff Gates, 59, a new-media producer at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. "Every time I drive down the street after being away on a trip, I think, 'This really is amazing that I live here.' "

Most of the roughly 242 houses in Arcola, which is bounded by Shorefield Road, Georgia Avenue, Arcola Avenue and Wheaton Regional Park, were built in the late 1950s and early 1960s by a few different builders. Gates said the large, wooded properties give the suburban neighborhood a rural flavor.

"Houses are generally on half-acre lots," Gates said. "It's a suburban experience, but your house isn't right next to another house."

Gates said the neighborhood's proximity to the subway -- it's about a mile from the Wheaton and Glenmont Metro stations -- enables residents to enjoy the benefits of city life, too.

"My car is nine years old, and it's got 23,000 miles on it," Gates said. "My friends and relatives in Los Angeles find that hard to believe."

Mark Drury, 54, the head of design and engineering for Shapiro & Duncan, a Rockville contracting firm, said the neighborhood is also conveniently located for driving, with easy access to interstates 95 and 270 and to Georgia, Connecticut and New Hampshire avenues.

Drury, who commutes to Rockville by car, said that if the neighborhood has a downside, it's that most residents do have to commute elsewhere for work.

"Wheaton is still lacking office space, so we're still very much a bedroom community," Drury said. "From nine to five, everyone's somewhere else."

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