If Columbia residents do nothing else recreationally this fall, we recommend that they take a walk along one or more of the city's paths. As autumn heads into its final scene, few things could be more serenely enjoyable then a stroll through parkland, around a lake or on a hill overlooking the Patuxent River.
It is a testament to the enormous vision in the Columbia plan that so much of nature has been preserved -- and made accessible -- as the city grows to capacity.
The idea, as promulgated by Columbia founder Jim Rouse, was to integrate the natural environment with a mix of commercial and housing developments.
But no vision or plan on a blueprint could match the splendor that unfolds along 60 miles of pathways, lacing 3,000 acres of forest and open space.
Beyond the visual beauty of the system are other recreational amenities: 131 tot lots, three lakes, 21 ponds and three major parks.
The path system puts many residents within walking distance of schools and shopping centers. It provides a place to walk or bike or jog.
The system's curative quality springs from its simplicity and proximity. In every community, Columbia residents are mere steps from the opportunity to experience nature.
The Columbia Association each year spends about $5.5 million to maintain the parks and pathway system -- mowing, manicuring and repaving. Rather than making the paths pristine and unnatural, the association deserves the highest praise for maintaining the appearance of something untouched.
In spite of the achievement, there are detractors. Over the years, as new communities have taken shape, it has become part of the cultural ritual of the city that groups come together to protest the paths.
When designs are finalized for an extension of the path system, residents whose properties abut a proposed path come out to block the construction. Usually they fail.
The cries of "not in my back yard" are rightly muffled by the sheer majesty of the final product. We suspect that many of those protesters convert to frequent users once new paths are ** finished.
So Columbians, take a walk.
Commune with nature. Enjoy something that few other cities can boast of, and that which is fairly uniquely yours.