Dennis Lane was known as the "godfather" of the blogosphere throughout Columbia and Ellicott City, according to fellow bloggers Tom Coale and Paul Skalny.
Lane's blog, Tales of Two Cities, covered many hot-button issues other residents wouldn't openly discuss, they said, including his support of the controversial Inner Arbor Trust plan as well as other ongoing development in downtown Columbia. The plan outlines multiple attractions to be constructed across the 16.5 acres north of Merriweather Post Pavilion, including the new Chrysalis amphitheater, which is underway.
His voice provided a perspective that will be missed, Coale said, but will be honored when a street is dedicated in his name at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Oct. 19.
Ian Kennedy, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, said Howard Hughes Corp. and Merriweather officials began talks of a formal memorial dedication shortly after he was killed by his then-14-year-old daughter's boyfriend in May 2013.
Jason Anthony Bulmer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2014, while Lane's daughter, Morgan Lane Arnold, who was charged as an adult, also pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in January. Testimony revealed Arnold had a history of mental health problems and spent months planning the murder of her father, manipulating her boyfriend into fatally stabbing him.
During the dedication ceremony, Kennedy said the road behind Merriweather Post – often referred to as Staff Drive – will be renamed Dennis Lane, stretching backstage and connecting to Merriweather Drive in the Crescent development.
"Like any true Columbian, Merriweather was hugely important to him," Kennedy said. "Some of the defining experiences of his life, as he told me and wrote many times, were at Merriweather. He worked there a lot when he was younger and recognized the importance of Merriweather as a defining institution for the Columbia community."
Although he moved to Columbia after Lane's death, Greg Fitchitt, Howard Hughes' vice president of development, said he immediately recognized the 58-year-old blogger's influence in the community. For example, Fitchitt said, Lane was an advocate for the 2010 Downtown Columbia Plan, which outlines future projects in the area and maintains the vision of founder Jim Rouse.
"It involved hundreds and hundreds of people, hundreds and hundreds of meetings to bring this vision all the way to the point where it was approved by the council," Fitchitt said. "I know Dennis was very much one of the leaders of that effort. He was really a great organizing force and outgoing guy who really touched a lot of people."
Years after the plan was passed, Fitchitt said, Howard Hughes sought the county's approval to dedicate a street in Lane's name in late 2015, which they received early this year.
The plan was just one of the many topics discussed on Lane's podcast, "And Then There's That…" which he co-hosted with Skalny. Every Friday, Skalny said, the two "political junkies" talked about the political landscape, development and public figures. Guests ranged from local leaders, such as Merriweather General Manager Jean Parker, to state officials, such as former Gov. Robert Ehrlich.
"He and I liked dabbling in that sandbox," Skalny said. "We got very close through that whole process."
The podcast ended with Lane's death, Skalny said.
When his voice wasn't heard by his podcast listeners, Coale said Lane served as a leader in the blogging community. Each post explained ongoing community issues to its readers, all from Lane's point-of-view. Lane also shared other blogger's work.
"I think he set the tone for the conversation across the entire county," Coale said, who writes the HoCoRising blog. "In Howard County, we had a very limited blogger scene and compounded by the fact that we had limited local news coverage, Dennis ended up being the one who decided what we were talking about."
Coale said Lane would be taken aback by the influence he had on his hometown. He wasn't necessarily a humble person, Coale said, laughing, often referring to himself as "kind of a big deal."
"He treated Merriweather as some form of a temple," he said. "It's so fulfilling to see and I also just think of him and how surprised and amazed he would be.
"I think this is another way of remembering Dennis and a way of creating a long-term legacy," Skalny added. "It exists in a place in Columbia that was close to the heart of where Dennis was."