CA vows to keep Symphony Woods name

The Columbia Association Board of Directors is intent on keeping the name of the 36 acres north of Merriweather Post Pavilion Symphony Woods, despite proposed name changes by the park's developer, the Inner Arbor Trust.

The Trust, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was created by the CA board to manage the development of the property, has recently referred to the development as "Merriweather Park," much to the chagrin of some board members.

After discussing a potential name change at a board meeting earlier this month, the board decided to distribute a letter last week to the Trust requesting it keep the name Symphony Woods when referring to the property.

"Symphony Woods has a long history, for Columbia, and we want to make sure they honor that history and keep the name around," said CA board chair Andy Stack.

According to Stack, the board was in general agreement that the name should remain.

"That's the historical name for the property, and a lot of people are vested in that name," said Alex Hekimian, CA board member who requested the topic be added to a March meeting. "It's a wonderful name, it's what it's been called for a long, long time. We don't see the need to change the name."

Stack and Hekimian said the issue arose after concern from residents, who noted the name Symphony Woods was not appearing on the Inner Arbor's submission plans to the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning.

Among those residents was Barbara Kellner, who also works as the director of the Columbia Archives. Kellner said in a letter addressed to the board that the name has historic significance, and should be respected.

"Symphony Woods reflects the original intent of the woods — public space around the private enterprise — and, of course, the reference to the music that would waft from the private enterprise. They were connected and separate at the same time," Kellner wrote.

Trust President Michael McCall said the Trust received the letter on March 21, and has not formulated a response. McCall did say the idea behind Merriweather Park was for the entire neighborhood, and that Symphony Woods would remain the name of the park.

"There is still Merriweather Post Pavilion and Symphony Woods, but the whole identity I think should be Merriweather Park," McCall said. "I appreciate CA's concerns and look forward to the optimum solution."

While the Trust was created by a vote of the CA board, the board has no direct control over the workings of the Trust, which is governed by its own board of directors and managed by McCall.

CA does have representation in the Trust, as CA President Phil Nelson, CA board member Gregg Schwind and former CA board member Ed Coleman serve on the Trust's seven-member board.

In order for the Trust to develop the property, CA and the Trust signed an easement agreement, which conveyed the CA-owned land to the organization for purposes of developing the Inner Arbor plan, which proposes building an arts district and curated arts park in the 36-acre wooded open space.

According to Stack, rights to change the name were not part of the easement agreement.

Trust representation

In addition to a letter about the name, the board also distributed a second letter to the Trust about CA's representation. In that letter, the board noted the impending departure of Nelson, whose contract as president will not be renewed when it ends in April, and the CA elections in late April.

The CA president, the organization's highest position, serves on the Trust board ex-officio, meaning whoever fills the role automatically assumes the post on the Trust board. The Trust wanted to ensure that Nelson's replacement, who is expected to be announced next month, has a position on the Trust board.

The other two positions, which were intended to be for CA board members, are different.

Both Coleman and Schwind were elected to the Trust board by the CA board before the 2013 CA elections, even though both were up for re-election. Schwind, who ran uncontested, retained his seat on the CA board and the Trust board, while Coleman, who is from Long Reach, was defeated by current Long Reach representative Russ Swatek.

Coleman continues to serve on the Trust board as a CA representative, although he hasn't been on the CA board for almost a year.

In the letter, the board requested the Trust accept new representatives from CA, whom Stack said will likely be elected after CA elections are complete.

"We expect they would honor our request," Stack said.

McCall said the Trust will accept CA's new representatives.

"We are happy to have the representatives CA wants to have. That's their right," he said.

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