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Woods are nice, but let's protect grassy areas too

In the past several weeks, the Oakland Mills Village Board has been presented with three separate plans for tree planting in Columbia Association open spaces that are now grassy areas. Are there more proposals to come? So far we haven't been told.

I appreciate the willingness of CA watershed manager John McCoy to come and discuss the reasons for these changes with the community, but what was missing is the comprehensive plan for all of these important changes to Columbia's landscape. What is also missing is an understanding of how the community uses these spaces.

In the planning of Columbia our open spaces were brilliantly designed to be a mix of open grassy areas and forest, a generous backyard for everyone to use and enjoy. We gladly exchanged the idea of large private lot sizes for this common amenity. This original plan has matured into the beautiful landscape we have today.

Today, we have to think about the high costs of mowing and maintenance as well as watershed issues, concerns largely unconsidered in the 1970's. These concerns are important, but so is the role that open areas play in unstructured recreation and the appearance of our landscape. If everything is forested, where will you fly a kite, toss a ball, run your dog, sled with your kids or just take a walk in the sun? In the future will most of our grassy areas be on school properties, under power lines or in playing fields?

We all enjoy woods to walk through, but most folks do not spend much time in them. Protecting the look of our landscape needs to be considered. When you think of great parks like the Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., The Fenway in Boston or Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, they all include a carefully considered mix of open and forested areas.

Where is the comprehensive design for these changes? How will these changes affect our landscape and how we use it? It would be more productive all around if we could see the full extent of the tree-planting program instead of this piecemeal approach to land planning and decision-making.

These land-use proposals will profoundly change the uses and the look of Columbia. They need to be carefully considered.

Phil Engelke

Oakland Mills

Phil Engelke is a member of the Oakland Mills Village Board.

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