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The grounds for celebration [Editorial]

Howard County Times

Earth Day is a fitting time for the dedication of the Chrysalis amphitheater in Columbia, marking the birth of the first component in a multiyear year plan to assemble Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods next door to the nationally acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Chrysalis has been labeled "the symbol of Columbia's next 50 years" and it will take a sustained commitment from future generations to maintain it and see that the other phases of the project are completed.

County grants were channeled to help the nonprofit Inner Arbor Trust design and complete the $6.6 million outdoor theater. Over the next 10 years, there are emerging plans for a gallery, food pavilion, a playground and smaller parks within the park.

Costs will likely top $30 million and supporters rightly acknowledge that tax dollars will have to be supplemented with private donations and support from the Columbia Association, the concern that manages and maintains Columbia's neighborhoods.

Over a decade, the price should be manageable and the resulting park will be an asset; it's already being compared with the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, which includes an education center, hiking trails and stage and has been a summertime attraction on the doorstep of the nation's capital.

From the start, an objective was to make the amphitheater available for rent by nonprofit groups for a nominal $1 fee, plus the costs associated with managing events. The area has been a staging ground for Wine in the Woods and will be the scene of a book fair and community orchestra concert. The park isn't designed to compete with Merriweather Post Pavilion but rather have a "synergistic relationship."

Venues such as Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, along with a network of parks, quality schools, well-maintained roads and a welcoming business climate, are all essential elements in a healthy community.

As Columbia marks its 50th anniversary with dozens of activities throughout the year, the opening of Chrysalis is another reason for a celebration.

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