National Night Out

Residents in dozens of Montgomery County neighborhoods gathered Tuesday for cookouts and block parties to participate in National Night Out, an annual event to focus attention on crime and drug prevention.

In Rockville, officials launched a new Beacon of Safety program, in which city police and fire officials will distribute free flashing light bulbs to be used in emergencies.

The bulbs will constantly flash when activated, providing an easy way for emergency workers to find homes that have placed calls for help. The program is largely aimed at seniors and homes with chronically ill and disabled residents

The new program, Rockville Police Chief Terry Treschuk said in a statement, "could be a major help -- it could mean the difference between life and death for someone."

For more information on the program, call 240-314-8910.

Pedestrian Bridge Opens

Last week, local and state officials opened a pedestrian bridge linking Montgomery College's Takoma Park campus with its new Health Sciences Center on Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.

The $4 million bridge, funded by the state and the county, marks the completion of the first phase of the expansion of the campus, which will include a new student services center and a cultural arts center. The bridge has a glass-enclosed walkway, ramps and lighting to make it accessible year-round.

Officials also held the groundbreaking last week for the redesigned Jesup Blair Park, described as a green gateway into Silver Spring from Washington.

The 14-acre park will include new tennis and basketball courts, two playgrounds, a performance stage, a renovated play field, walkways and additional landscaping. Local environmentalists had fought to protect the park's trees before construction of the adjacent Health Sciences Center.

Boost for Trail Span

State officials have approved a $2.3 million grant to assist with the construction of the $5.8 million Rock Creek Trail pedestrian bridge over Veirs Mill Road in the Aspen Hill area.

The bridge will cross over the four-lane road, which handles more than 40,000 vehicles per day. Construction is slated for completion in spring 2007.

The 18-mile Rock Creek Hiker-Biker Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Washington area.

Park Panel Consolidation

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's Montgomery County Planning Board is planning to consolidate its operations into a headquarters in downtown Silver Spring, to be known as SilverPlace.

Officials recently hired a project development adviser team for the project, which would include housing and a park. Currently, M-NCPPC has offices in three locations in Silver Spring.