Beret Lane Neighborhood Conservation Area
Beret Lane Neighborhood Conservation Area is a 3.7 acre undeveloped area nestled between the Strathmore at Bel Pre subdivision, the Hewitt Avenue neighborhood, and the Gate of Heaven Cemetery grounds.
Originally subdivided as part of Strathmore at Bel Pre, with a designation as "Beret Court", this property was acquired by the MNCPPC in 1971.
At the time, it was correctly characterized as providing "opportunities for quiet enjoyment of the natural beauty of the woods and stream". Yet shortly thereafter, the building boom that had started in the early 1950s finally began to fill in the last of the open spaces, and by the mid-1970s, the conservation area had become a tiny remnant pocket of what had once been.
After the completion of the surrounding subdivisions and apartment complexes, a majority of surrounding lands outside of the cemetery became effectively impermeable. Thus, a great deal of rainwater floods into the stream -- the "Watery Branch of Rock Creek" -- which historically drained all of the Garter Lost tract and some surrounding lands. Downstream of this point, significant damage to the stream occurred. Throughout the 2000s, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection worked to ameliorate and restore with their Turkey Branch Watershed Restoration project.
We pause to note that deeds and other references going back to the Colonial period refer to this stretch of stream as "the Watery Branch of Rock Creek". It seems that, historically, the epithet of the Turkey Branch of Rock Creek referred to the branches in western Aspen Hill, which drain the Brookhaven and English Manor subdivisions, and the Wheaton Woods subdivision north of the confluence with Watery Branch just south of Elizabeth Street.
Great amounts of litter collect in and are transported by both the Turkey Branch and the Watery Branch. Annual cleanups by such groups as Friends of Rock Creek's Environment (FORCE) do much to ameliorate this recurrent problem.
It should be noted that even without the solid waste problem (packaging materials, mostly), not only does this stream carry away any fertilizers, fuels, or oils from the surrounding terrains, immediately before this particular consrevation area, it drains the groundwater of a very large cemetery.
While not particularly noted for criminal activity in and of itself, this conservation area is undeveloped and unlit, and the nearby Hewitt Avenue neighborhood and Aspen Manor Shopping Center are high-crime indeed, and a footpath in the conservation area is frequently traversed, between the Beret Lane area of the Strathmore at Bel Pre neighborhood and the Hewitt Avenue neighborhood.