Montgomery Countryside Alliance: A Brief History
In 2001, Virginia-elected officials and developers pushed to study a northern Potomac River bridge crossing into Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve. A group of Montgomery County, Maryland residents created the non-profit organization, “Solutions Not Sprawl”, in opposition. The proposed crossing and highway was dubbed the “Techway” and was intended to connect the Northern Virginia tech corridor with I-270 in Maryland. Partnering with community and environmental organizations on both sides of the river, SNS helped to mobilize residents and eventually succeeded in terminating the study.
In order to watchdog Virginia and Maryland’s transportation policies and ensure that another bridge proposal did not gain traction, Solutions Not Sprawl continued its work in partnership with the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a Washington, DC-based organization which advocates for keeping growth near transit and urban centers while preserving rural lands.
In 2005, the group launched a campaign to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Agricultural Reserve, educating elected officials and the public about the nationally acclaimed model for the preservation of farm land and open space. This campaign, called Celebrate Rural Montgomery, complemented the land use and transportation advocacy of the Solutions Not Sprawl campaign. We also instituted the “Royce Hanson Award,” presented annually to an individual who demonstrates great commitment to protecting the Reserve. It is named in honor of Planning Chair Royce Hanson, one of the chief architects of the 1980 Master Plan that created the Ag Reserve.
During that same year, the board recognized the need to establish a lasting presence within the upcounty—one that would address the many additional threats to the Ag Reserve beyond the Techway. The organization’s name was changed to the Montgomery Countryside Alliance. The board expanded to accommodate the more extensive list of responsibilities, and in 2009, Montgomery Countryside Alliance moved from a shared office in Washington, DC to its current home in the heart of the Agricultural Reserve.
Currently, MCA has 2 paid staff and a talented volunteer Board and Advisory Committee. The organization has greatly expanding its work of supporting and expanding agricultural enterprises in the Reserve launching Land Link Montgomery, partnering with Montgomery County on the New Farmer Project and teaming with the Montgomery County Farm Bureau to advance opportunities for agricultural education in the County’s public schools.
Since its creation 35 years ago, the Reserve remains a national model for agricultural preservation and a growing opportunity for food and fiber production just 20 miles from downtown D.C.
That is cause for celebration!