The smell of freshly carved wood lingers in a new garage, erected over the footprints of an aged carport.
Just feet away, a short, concrete pathway leads to the home where Lindsay Hamilton remembers playing with her cousins and the unforgettable time they darted through the doors, avoiding the vicious bite of a stray dog.
She laughs at that episode today. The 25-year-old purchased the single-story home in Stevens Forest from her parents last summer and now lives there with her husband, Jason, 27.
"It's a lot better," Lindsay Hamilton said, looking at the recent home improvements they completed. "This is a much nicer house."
Her reaction is exactly what members of a recently formed village action committee strive for. The Hamiltons' renovations are a snapshot of what is happening throughout Oakland Mills village in an effort to beautify the community and attract potential residents.
About two years ago, village leaders began a series of focus groups and online surveys, looking for opinions on long-term revitalization plans for the village.
Oakland Mills has had a reputation for drug-dealing and other crimes, but local leaders say they are changing that image.
Revitalization plans for the village were given momentum during a town hall meeting this year at which about 200 village residents gathered for five hours and listed priorities.
Those concerns formed the basis of four action committees: Community Vibrancy, Education, Safety and Housing. Each group created a mission and a list of goals.
Village leaders say the four appointed committees are making the village better.
This is just one part of an ongoing process, said Calvin Ball, community development officer for Oakland Mills. "This is a multi-faceted effort to make Oakland Mills the crown jewel of Columbia that it once was."
Local leaders and residents agree the village - established in November 1968 - is aging and needs some renovation of its homes.
"Some people have kept up their homes and gone the extra mile with upgrading, and other people have not been motivated and able to keep their houses updated as well," said Barbara Russell, the village's representative on the Columbia Council and a Housing Committee member.
The committee is spearheading the effort to have a villagwide renovation, of homes in particular. The tools provided are knowledge about architectural process, construction, planning and contractor referrals.
A model home
The committee is working toward providing another vital construction tool - a completely remodeled single-story home and townhouse that will serve as a model for village residents pondering their homes' future.
On a recent afternoon, the Hamiltons stood in their new driveway of their Ourtime Lane home, proudly displaying the garage to a gathering of friends, neighbors and local leaders who came to see the renovations.
The Hamiltons have done a series of other renovations to the house since they purchased it - knocking out a few interior walls and pruning the landscape.
"Many people stop by and tell us they like the improvements," Jason Hamilton said. "We've inspired our neighbors."
He added: "About five or six people have stopped by, asking for the name and contact information for my contractor."
Just across the tree-shaded street, another neighbor is constructing a garage and other neighbors are remodeling their homes, as well.
Jason Hamilton said the interior of the house is still undergoing renovations, and he expects to add a deck very soon.
Bill McCormack, co-chair of the housing action committee, said when the homes in the village were built, there was a limited selection - about a handful of styles and colors.
The Hamiltons' house was once a dark chocolate color. Today, the exterior is gray. Lindsay Hamilton's parents, who lived there for 20 years, are happy about the improvements.
"Her parents love [the renovations]," Jason Hamilton said. "They never envisioned what we have done."
The other action committees have been eagerly pursuing their goals, too, Ball said.
The Community Vibrancy Committee's goal is to promote the community and its growth. The group has about 80 street captains throughout the villages, promoting its objective.
The Safety Committee's goal is to foster a safe environment through crime prevention and to improve the quality of life. The group recently trained residents to participate in a community watch program.
The Education Committee's goal is to provide academic, recreational and leadership goal opportunities for the youth. The committee has recently partnered with local agencies to promote recreational activities throughout the village and the town of Columbia. The committee also is working with local agencies to give youth job skills.