Notes on the Terrain

The area in these images is a relative highland, separating two distinct watersheds.

North is always to the top of your screen.

At the bottom left of the images, closest to the edge, you will see Connecticut Avenue. Just to the west of Connecticut is one of the tributaries of the Turkey Branch of Rock Creek. Just to the south of the edge of the image, this joins with the "Northgate" branch, which crosses Georgia Avenue just north of the intersection with Hewitt Avenue. This may be followed northward to several distinct branches, with most of these originating in Leisure World, with confluence in Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

At the top center of the image is "Homecrest Road". Generally speaking, any point which is both to the west of Homecrest and to the north of Hewitt Avenue is a part of the Rock Creek drainage, and with limited exception, anything to the east of Homecrest is drainage to the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River. The ridge of high ground dividing the watersheds runs more-or-less due south towards Georgia Avenue at the intersection with Layhill Road.

Geographic Isolation Characteristics of these Neighborhoods

The neighborhoods in the HotSpot study area are characterized by features promoting isolation, some natural features, some man-made.

If you will locate Del-Mercado shopping center in the top-right quadrant of the image, with Argyle Middle School just to the south across Bel-Pre road, you will please note that immediately to the west is one major tributary to the Northwest Branch, originating more-or-less at Route 28 and Wintergate Drive, and crossing eastward out of the study area across Layhill Road just south of the Barrie School. It is bordered to the left by "Rippling Brook Road", where private property prevents access by the public from the streets.

Please note that this is a major terrain feature and divides one neighborhood from another. Also note that while this is ordinarily a small and placid stream, during cloudbursts it is capable of flash-flooding due to the large drainage it serves. A related terrain feature is to be observed just south of Hewitt Avenue, where a deep narrow valley tributary to the Northwest Branch has cut into the high ground, generally isolating the Hewitt Avenue communities from the neighborhoods to the south.

At first glance, this appears to be an ideal community. However, all of that greenspace is misleading, as most of it is privately owned and inaccessible to the general public outside of specific uses, few of which are amenable to either recreational or community-building activities.

The largest greenspace is the Gate of Heaven Cemetery. It is bounded on all sides by impenetrable fencing to prevent vandalism. The general public is permitted access, though the intended access is for funereal and memorial uses such as gravesite visitation, and this access is through one gateway only, on the east side of Georgia Avenue across from the NorthGate shopping Center.

Despite the entirely central location, and greenbelt amelioration of visual clutter of suburban sprawl, in terms of affecting both the energy flows of community life and non-vehicular transportation, the cemetery is essentially a roadblock and might as well be a huge block of concrete plopped down in the middle of the neighborhood. Routes around it are incomplete, other than the Connecticut-to-BelPre route, which is consequently heavily trafficked. Indeed, the heavy traffic combines with the fencing to create a bottleneck, forcing much pedestrian traffic into a dangerous proximity with high vehicular flow. See an image of this bottleneck! All alternative routes are highly circuitous, and also expose pedestrian traffic to a dangerous proximity to high-speed/high-volume vehicular traffic.

Note also that many of the apartment/condominium complexes are contained by fencing. This may be seen as useful in terms of landlord's ability to control access to try to prevent crime or forestall litigation, but it also tends to create little enclaves. People who might be neighbors if the fences weren't there, instead find themselves a 20-minute walk apart.