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Letters to the editor

Power brokers count upon apathy about Symphony Woods

Despite my reputation as a community and political activist, I had developed a veil of apathy, indifference and cynicism about Columbia's "politics".

Quite frankly, I saw much of the decision-making about what happened at our village centers and public arenas as rigged in favor of an interlocking directorate, with certain barely elected, perhaps naive CA board members being used to do the bidding of the power brokers who were really calling the shots.

And, lest anyone think that things were different when the Rouse Company ran things, I would argue that we should not romanticize the early days of this community. Why did it take so long for there to be a solid plan to make the "downtown" a real downtown? Why have the village centers been allowed to remain in the mode of 1970's-thinking about community, and in most cases languish as a result?

So, instead, I turned my energies toward helping to elect local, state, and national politicians whom I thought would make a difference on progressive issues that are near and dear to my heart.

This past CA election struck me differently, however. How did we end up with a plan for Symphony Woods — also neglected for all these years — that seems to benefit some well-connected people under the guise of promoting public good and "art"?

It probably happened because those same power brokers were counting on people like me to remain apathetic, indifferent and cynical. However, I am counting on this community to ultimately do the right thing — and in this case, the right thing is to go back to Cy Paumier's carefully thought out plan for a downtown park we can be proud of.

Roni Goss Berkowitz

Columbia

Don't replace Symphony Woods with juvenile amusements

The great urban parks in the United States and abroad are recognized and remembered for their landscape amenities, their form-giving walkway layouts, central gathering spaces and water features. The 2008 Master Plan for Symphony Woods envisioned a walkway plan and features that preserved 90 percent of the woodland landscape.

The heart of this plan was defined by a wide walkway encircling a central lawn and providing access to the Merriweather Post Pavilion, an interactive fountain, a cafe and future cultural arts facilities beyond.The 350-foot-wide central lawn was designed as gathering space for community events.

Jim Rouse and his planning team envisioned creating a "special people place" where the community could come together to celebrate: this was his dream for Symphony Woods.

In a news article in the Feb. 20 Columbia Flier, Martha Schwartz, the landscape architect of the 2014 Inner Arbor Plan said, "The circle is the unifying form across my work for Merriweather Park. Its generous geometry symbolizes bringing people together, the circle of  multigenerational life and of carefree play in the heart of the community." Ironically, the circle is far more evident in the 2008 Master Plan for Symphony Woods!

The 2014 Inner Arbor Plan lacks a central focus and sense of place — "there is no there there, anywhere." Also, it has over 900 feet of meandering walks that, together with a 300-foot-long picnic table, precludes any central gathering space. Over 50 percent of the 16-acre woodland site will be severely damaged by the construction equipment needed to build the meandering walks, the elevated boardwalk, three park structures and two buildings and for extensive excavation to install underground utilities.

The structures proposed in the Inner Arbor Plan are certainly creative and imaginative. Mostly, however, they are juvenile amusements that can hardly be called cultural arts facilities. They may have a place somewhere in Columbia, But not in Symphony Woods — our Central Park.

Jervis Dorton

Columbia

Event captured Jim Rouse's life, legacy and vision

The sun shone on a brilliant celebration of Jim Rouse's life and legacy on Sunday, May 4, at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The event captured Rouse's vision and promoted the idea that Columbians take the vision forward. Packets of Black-Eyed Susan seeds distributed at the end of the event symbolized Rouse's belief that Columbia will never be finished; that future generations would continue to sow the seeds to create a community that valued the land and provided fertile soil for people to grow.

While the program looked back at Rouse's accomplishments, the message was to the future. The impressive turnout (estimated at 600-800 people) was testament to Rouse's success at building community.

Columbia Archives, a service of Columbia Association, organized the event and thanks the people who made it possible. Toby Orenstein and Carole Graham Lehan created and produced the inspirational and entertaining Salute to Jim Rouse. The troupe of Young Columbians, and original Young Columbian Larry Friedman with other area professionals Colby Kay Callahan, Kevin McAllister and Doug Lawler delighted the crowd with their magnificent talents and spirit.

Speakers who recounted how Jim's vision contributed to making their dreams come true included Jim Ryan, Bill Ross, Toby Orenstein, Pat Kennedy, Bart Harvey and Mary and Earl Armiger. Four county executives — Ed Cochran (1974-1978); Liz Bobo (1986-1990), Jim Robey (1998-2006) and Ken Ulman (2006 to present) donned Jim Rouse look-alike attire to give tribute to Rouse's contribution to the success of the county.

Merriweather Post Pavilion provided the perfect backdrop for the event. Jean Parker and Brad Canfield went above and beyond in providing the venue and all the support that it takes to make such an event happen. My colleagues at Columbia Association provided the beautiful flowers and decorations and the wonderful activities for the children. Special thanks to Jan Clark, Troy Bailey and Melissa Capo and their teams for the extraordinary efforts.

A big thank you too to Enterprise for its major sponsorship, to Wegmans and Howard Hughes Corp. for the delicious food, to John Milton Wesley for the ambient music, to the Columbia Archives staff Robin Emrich and Jeannette Lichtenwalner, who work behind the scenes to make it all possible, and to all the volunteers who made things run smoothly.

Columbia Archives is proud to hold the Jim Rouse Manuscript Collection and to preserve the history of Columbia and Rouse's careers.

Barbara Kellner

Director of Columbia Archives

CA election shows need for more households to vote

Congratulations to all of the winners in the recent CA elections. As I told one of the participants in the Harpers Choice elections (I consider both friends), I think competition for CA slots is good. I just wish we could increase participation by households in the contested elections.

Speaking of which, while the contested election candidates elected opposed the Inner Arbor, they did not win by "large margins" as Judy Vogel Longfellow stated in her letter last week. Thankfully, your newspaper explained how votes are calculated.  Each parcel of real property gets one vote in the elections;  CA controls 73 parcels in Harper`s Choice. Since the odd election guidelines dictate CA's votes be added to the total of the candidate who received the majority of votes, the "official" (not household) vote count was 269 to 179. The actual vote by households in Harpers Choice was 196 to 179 (or 52 percent to 48 percent).  The actual results in Harpers Choice show we are still pretty much a divided Columbia on many issues. 

I hope this odd policy is changed by our elected officials in the future, or at least clarified, so misimpressions like Ms. Longfellow's are not repeated.  Thank you to the Flier for explaining this to everyone.

Steve Sprecher

Columbia

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