July-August 2009

Best Place to Live

Is the Bethesda area the best place in the country to live?

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Government jobs help provide stability, but it’s the continuing increase in private- sector employment over the past 25 years that will keep the county growing, he says. Eighty percent of the jobs in the county are in the private sector.

“That’s why, from an economic development standpoint, the county recognizes that the real job growth in the economy will be in the private sector,” Silverman says. “There are lots of gems in places like Bethesda and other parts of the county who are looking to see a glass half full and see opportunity here.” The Bethesda area has also come into its own, with major corporations such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Marriott International Inc. in Bethesda, and Discovery Communications Inc. in Silver Spring making the county their home. In Rockville, the biotechnology corridor continues to grow as the county works to attract new businesses.

“We’ve got major corporate entities in addition to the [National Institutes of Health] and Bethesda Naval,” Silverman says, adding that the impact of thousands of small businesses in the area can’t be discounted. “You’ve got a very solid small-business [community] in Bethesda to expand and provide a tax base.”

Good health report

Bethesda-area residents are among the healthiest people in the country. According to 2007 surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the area ranks high in the health of its residents and the healthy lifestyles they lead. For example, among 180 metropolitan areas, the Bethesda area was in the top 10 percent in the percentages of adults who have not had a heart attack, aren’t overweight, aren’t disabled, don’t smoke and do eat fruits and vegetables every day. Eighty-eight percent of Bethesda-area residents reported that their health was good or very good.

The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area was ranked the second-healthiest in the country according to a recent study released by Bert Sperling’s Best Places and Centrum, the multivitamin company. That study considered factors such as health status and lifestyle, life expectancy and the number of physicians per capita. And Self magazine added to the accolades in 2008 by declaring the Bethesda area the healthiest place for women due to access to doctors, low rates of smoking and cancer, the availability of outdoor activities and more.

The good health of Bethesda-area residents is also the result of being well educated and having higher incomes, which make area residents more likely to be informed about how to prevent illnesses such as heart disease and how to reduce stress and cholesterol levels. Residents are also more likely to have health insurance, says Brenda Loube, chairwoman of the Maryland Advisory Council on Physical Fitness.

Combine that awareness with access to parks and recreational programs such as swimming and tennis classes, and “that equals to promoting healthy lifestyles,” says Loube, president and co-founder of Corporate Fitness Works, which provides fitness and wellness services for clients nationwide.

The availability of quality health care also helps us maintain our good health. In Montgomery County, there are 330 physicians per 100,000 people, according to Ben Steffen, director of the Center for Information Services and Analysis at the Maryland Health Care Commission.

“Montgomery County has more doctors per 100,000 than most counties in the United States,” Steffen says.

The area is also home to medical facilities like the Children’s National Medical Center outpatient clinic in Rockville, the world-renowned National Institutes of Health and the National Naval Medical Center, both in Bethesda, and five accredited hospitals.

Let’s go play

Bethesda-area residents live in a densely populated urban area, but there are plenty of places to play.

The county boasts nearly 34,000 acres of parkland, with nearly 25,000 of those acres set aside for environmental preservation. There are nearly 200miles of paved and natural surface trails, 11 recreational parks, five regional parks and 290 playgrounds. Forty-seven percent of the county is protected from development because it is preserved for agriculture or parkland, according to the county planning department.

Those figures put the county ahead of Other wealthy communities, such as Fairfax County and its 420 parks and trails on 24,000 acres, or the 50 parks on 18,000 acres in Westchester County, N.Y. Residents can find respite in county parks with man-made lakes, hiking trails and ball fields; hike in the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park; or ride on the historic Dentzel Carousel in Glen Echo Park.

Regional parks, such those in Wheaton and Cabin John, offer more than a place to picnic. In both parks there’s ice skating and tennis, a nature center and a miniature train. Brookside Gardens, a 50-acre public display garden in Wheaton Regional Park, offers a lush and colorful oasis that changes with the seasons. In some communities, getting to a park only requires a walk down the street—there are 94 neighborhood parks around the county, according to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The National Park Service’s Rock Creek Park, which runs from Washington into northern Montgomery County, offers wooded trails for hiking and cycling, and plenty of picnic spots. Ken-Gar Palisades Park, located off Beach Drive in Kensington, is a popular training area for the Montgomery County Road Runners Club, one of the area’s largest running groups. For Bethesda-area residents, the Capital Crescent Trail reigns supreme. The former railroad right-of-way, which runs from Bethesda to Georgetown, is a popular route for walkers, joggers, inline skaters and cyclists, some of who muse the trail to commute to work.