After years of discussion, the Columbia Association has begun to finalize plans to connect the footpath around Lake Kittamaqundi.
"Citywide, people have wanted this for a long time," said Suzanne Waller, the Town Center representative serving on the CA board.
According to CA's Director of Construction Dennis Mattey, staff members are in the process of using approved funds to solicit engineering firms to create drawings of the plans.
Mattey said staff started soliciting requests following the April 10 meeting of the Town Center Village Board, during which the board voted to support the recommended option presented BayLand Consultants & Designers, the firm hired by CA to study the project.
The supported plan, which is projected as the least expensive of the three options with $513,075 for building costs and $2,110 in annual maintenance, proposes paving 1,800 linear feet of existing dirt trail, creating 670 feet of new trail, building 90 feet of boardwalk in a flood prone area, and erecting a 36 feet of bridge across a marshy swale.
When completed, the pathway loop, which encircles the northern section of the lake, will be two miles long.
Mattey estimates it will take 12 months to draw the plans and receive engineering permits, and anticipates breaking ground on the three-month construction project in summer 2014.
"I'm excited about it," Mattey said. "I believe it is part of the revitalization of Town Center in Columbia."
Mattey, who said plans to connect the loop have been discussed since he began at CA over a decade ago, hopes the completion of the project will coincide with the scheduled summer 2014 opening of the renovated former Rouse Co. building, which will house a Whole Foods and a new CA fitness club.
"The more people we can get downtown, the more activity we get, the better. It can start to become a destination, not just a place people go once in a while," Mattey said.
In addition to being the least expensive, the first alternative is the most environmentally friendly, which was a primary concern for CA, Mattey said.
"Our goal was to give the people the greatest access to the lake with the least environmental impact," Mattey said.
Mattey said he's received an unusual amount of feedback from residents who support completing the loop.
One of those is Town Center resident Lynn Foehrkolb, who lives in the Waterbury Town Home complex, which is walking distance to the lake.
"I'm a big walker, so I like the idea they are going to connect the path because you can't make a full loop at this point," said Foehrkolb, who was elected to the Town Center Village Board on April 20.
Foehrkolb said she supports the first and second alternative, but that ultimately any solution would have filled a community need.
"I think the paths are used a lot, but it would be used a lot more if it were connected," Foehrkolb said. "People like the idea of going all the way around. Completing the circle is a really nice thing to do."
Town Center resident Chris Bachmann, who also lives close to the lake, said sometimes he gets lost walking on the dirt path.
"People are going to walk it anyway, so it would be nice to have a clearer defined path," Bachmann said.
Bachmann favored alternative three, which proposed building a boardwalk and a 90-foot landmark bridge over the lake.
In addition to having the most environmental impacts, that option was also most expensive at $899,325 in building costs and $6,760 in annual maintenance.
"I'm thinking about the people who like to stroll around at night, maybe take a post-dinner walk to work off a meal at Clyde's. For them, alternative three may be the way to go," Bachmann said.
Although some residents differ on which option to pursue, Waller, who previously mentioned some residents were concerned about an increase in crime, categorized the overall resident concern as low.
Bachmann said he doesn't buy the argument that paving the pathway will bring increased crime.
"A lot of areas where you see crime on footpaths are areas with higher crime rates anyway," Bachmann said. "I seriously doubt building a pathway will increase crime."