March-April 2011

Since You Asked: March-April 2011

Questions and answers about the Bethesda area.

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What’s the story behind all those gorgeous cherry trees lining every street in Bethesda’s Kenwood neighborhood?

—Seton Brems, Kensington

Developers Donal Chamberlin and Edgar Kennedy planted about 1,200 Yoshino cherry trees in 1929, when they built Kenwood, a neighborhood of about 300 homes off River Road and Little Falls Parkway, according to Ted Beverley, a resident and author of A History of Kenwood (2009).

They were inspired both by the Yoshinos at the Tidal Basin, a gift from Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki in 1912, and by those planted in Chevy Chase Village in about 1906 by David Fairchild, a plant explorer and U.S. Department of Agriculture official, Beverley says.

Kenwood’s blossoms quickly became a tourist attraction, drawing more than 25,000 visitors by the 1930s. The trees, which are maintained by residents, still draw tens of thousands of visitors to the neighborhood during bloom season every April. 

My friends from Arlington refer to downtown Bethesda as “Disneyland,” and joke that secret street cleaners must come out in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping. How do they keep the streets so clean?

—Allie Gebhardt, Bethesda

The Bethesda Urban Partnership (BUP), a nonprofit organization created in 1994 to market and maintain downtown Bethesda, is responsible for the Disney-like tidiness. But BUP Executive Director David Dabney says the organization’s 14-member street-cleaning crew—which sweeps, scrubs, landscapes, picks up litter and generally maintains downtown Bethesda’s streets and sidewalks weekdays and Saturdays—is anything but secret.

“We thought of having crews come in at night and get everything done, but we wanted people to be able to see the reinvestment of parking fees,” Dabney says.

BUP owns its own trash truck, street sweeper and electric sidewalk sweeper. “We take great pride in having our trucks out on the streets, our ambassadors out greeting people and our dedicated cleaning crew, all wearing red, out doing their work,” Dabney says.

What does Montgomery County do with all the garbage it collects?

—Christopher Olsen, Chevy Chase

Imagine a Wal-Mart or Costco store—which can be 100,000 square feet or larger—filled from ceiling to floor with 2,000 tons of trash. That’s the amount of garbage collected daily from 90,000 homes serviced by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Solid Waste Services and hauled to its Shady Grove transfer station, says Robin Ennis, chief of collections.

From there, the 500,000 tons of garbage collected annually by county contractors is burned at a plant in Dickerson, where its weight is reduced by 70 percent and its volume by 90 percent, according to Dan Locke, head of the Division of Solid Waste Services. Every ton burned generates 500 kilowatts of energy, and the leftover ash is used as a daily cover for landfills in Virginia or as a base for roads, according to Locke.

That doesn’t account for trash picked up in municipalities that handle their own collections, or for refuse hauled from commercial or multifamily properties. The latter is hauled to various facilities outside the county, including other waste-energy plants in cities including Baltimore or landfills in Pennsylvania or Virginia, as there are no active landfills in Montgomery County.

Have a question you’d like answered about someone or something in the Bethesda area? E-mail your question to Please include your name and the city in which you live.