A FEW WEEKS ago, Drew Foerster, 17, was spotted on a bike path in Long Reach. He and a few friends were standing at the edge of the woods where the path meets Tamar Drive.
The group seemed to be up to something.
On the ground around them was a shovel, a bag of dry cement, a bucket of water and a trash can. A neighbor out for a stroll crossed the street to investigate.
It turned out that Drew, a Boy Scout in Troop 794, was installing trash receptacles along the pathway. Over the course of several weekends, Drew's crew installed six cans as the community service part of his Eagle Scout project.
"I think it's good for the community to know that people care enough about the well-being and the beauty of their surroundings to act on that sensitivity," Drew wrote to the Columbia Association in his proposal for the project.
Drew's crew -- all Scouts from his troop -- were Patrick Miles, 13; Matthew Miles, 11; Eric Wickenheiser, 11; and Vincent Wickenheiser, 13; Patrick McKitrick, 12; Christopher Hayden, 12; and Drew's brother Chad, 16.
Adult leader David Miles and James Sharpe, 17, an Eagle Scout in Drew's troop, also pitched in. Drew had helped James collect coats for the needy for his Eagle project last year.
Drew's sister Sarah, 14, a Girl Scout, worked with him on installing the can on Tamar Drive.
Drew says he came up with the idea for the Eagle project while walking his purebred collie, Zoe. Trash along the path bothered him so much that he often brought bags to collect it. He met other neighbors along the way who were doing the same thing.
The Long Reach High School senior figured that convenient trash cans would encourage more people to help keep the paths clean.
He asked the Columbia Association to donate the trash cans that he and his crew would install. Association officials saw merit in the project and signed on.
"We worked with Drew for several months before he did the actual installation," said Chick Rodehamel, vice president and director of open space for the association. "We helped him evaluate the need for cans."
Once that was done, Rodehamel said, he and Drew put together an "analysis map" to decide where to place the cans. Next, he arranged for Drew to have a training session on proper installation methods with Columbia Association foreman Mike Lilly.
The cone-shaped receptacles are attached to a steel post that is anchored in a cement footing below ground. Wood slats painted in earth tones blend in with the surroundings, disguising the metal barrel of the can. Plastic bags that fit inside are collected regularly by association employees.
"Mr. Rodehamel is the one who approved and improved my project," Drew said. "Mr. Lilly actually went over the sites for the trash cans with me and helped me get the materials for the project."
Columbia Association officials were pleased with the outcome. "It's nice to work with young people who are interested in the community," Rodehamel said. "We'd really like to see more kids like Drew come forward with ideas for us."
On Saturday, the Oakland Mills Community Association and village merchants joined to celebrate the first "re-birthday" of the neighborhood shopping and social center's renovation.
The day began with a ribbon-cutting to dedicate the center's new fountain.
Ginny Thomas, Hal Kasoff and David Hatch -- co-chairs of the Oakland Mils Save Our Center Committee -- and Rouse Co. representatives Neil Lang and Gerald Brock shared the honors.
Lang, an architect, led the team that worked on the village center's renovation. He also designed the fountain -- a neat arrangement of rectangular granite slabs over which water flows. The stone, found in a North Carolina quarry, is gray, broken by black lines and small flecks of shimmering mica.
Blue skies and unseasonably mild temperatures made the afternoon a rare November treat. Visitors wandered along the storefronts, listened to music and greeted each other.
Others sat on benches taking in the scene. Pam Robinson brought her four children and sat watching the festivities with 1-year-old son, Brian, asleep in her arms.
"My kids brought fliers home from school," said Robinson, who has lived across from the village center since 1993. "This is very nice. We just had to walk across the street."
Unity, a home-grown six-piece reggae band, entertained for most of the afternoon in a plaza next to Last Chance Saloon. Robinson's children -- Brittney, 10, Bridget, 8, and Brooke, 7 -- danced to the island music.
Between sets, a troupe of young actors from Stevens Forest Elementary School staged three scenes from the school's production of "The Snow Queen," which will be presented Dec. 9 and 10 at Oakland Mills High School.
Thirty-five fourth- and fifth-graders dressed as ice trolls and town folk sang and danced numbers from the show.
Jennifer Thorne, 10, played the Snow Queen. Her Summer Image -- reflected in a mirror -- was Jennifer Tippetts, 9.
Magician Dean Turner and face-painter Martha Wright set up shop by The Other Barn. Both wore colorful clown costumes with silly hats, red noses and greasepaint smiles.
Wright brushed delicate designs onto children's faces as Turner kept squiggly kids giggling with balloon animals and comical antics.
"This is the real Columbia," said Columbia Council representative Earl Jones, surveying the scene. "Just look at us. This is what Rouse was talking about."
In front of Vennari's Pizza, Brownies from Troop 1410 helped other children make necklaces and jewelry. Small eager hands picked through an assortment of pipe cleaners, string and red, yellow and green beads spread across a long table.
Brownies Chelsea and Lara Feezel, Jordan Hoshko, Sarah Brown, Katelyn Rye, Morgan Walbert, Jessica Friedman, Melena Silva, Rachel Kenney and Sarah Thorne split into two shifts to work the booth.
Brownie leader Kathy Hoshko says the troop participated in the event as a "thank you" to the community association for allowing it to meet at the Stevens Forest neighborhood center free of charge.
"I'm hoping that this type of activity attracts business to the village," commented Ed Joell, who said he had placed fliers advertising the celebration on his apartment building bulletin board.
Joell was standing with Delores Mosley swaying to the music and enjoying the sun and a hot dog. He has lived in Columbia for 20 years and wants to the see the community continue to do well, he said.
Signed up for the luminary project yet? The goal is to light 1,000 streets in Columbia and neighboring communities with candles on the first night of the new year.
Kings Contrivance resident Jay Cincotta, who is spearheading the project, says that more than 400 streets are registered to participate.
Today is the last day of the year to visit the Farmers' Market at Dobbin Road and Route 175.
Merchants are giving away free half-pints of apple cider from the Cider Mill in Elkridge.
They are also offering free delivery of food bought for Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center in Columbia, a shelter for the homeless.
Additional east Columbia neighborhood news on Page 6B.