Columbia Association officials celebrated the completion of a $580,000 capital project last week to create a circular path around downtown's Lake Kittamaqundi, a long-awaited pathway that remedies a missing link in the community's approximately 100-mile pathway system.
"This is something that has been long-desired by the community," said Jane Dembner, CA's director of community building and open space. "There is certain enthusiasm for extending the reach of our pathways and, given the downtown development, certain things came together to make this reasonable to do now."
The new pathway was built on the lake's northern and eastern shores and connects an old portion of the pathway – which begins at the southern portion of the downtown lakefront – to a path on the lakefront's northern end.
The old path runs southward from the west side of the lake, around the lake's southern shore to its eastern, opposite side. Until now, the path ended in a loop at Kennedy Gardens, a small garden named for former CA President Padraic Kennedy.
The path now completes a full loop around the lake, which is a downtown gathering place for the community. Dembner said one of the reasons the project became a priority was the wave of development in downtown Columbia.
She said the project took four months to build, but almost two years to plan. She said the planning process included selecting from a series of options proposed by a consultant. She added there was an extensive permitting process with the county and state governments as well.
"It took a lot of engineering and permitting to get this done," she said.
Jeanne Ketley, Town Center representative to the CA Board of Directors, said she appreciated the environmentally conscious way the pathway was constructed.
"I think it is something very useful for people ... and yet it is there to respect the Earth; not to dominate it. And that's a very beautiful thing, and it is the essence of Columbia," she said.
She added: "This is quite a monument to Columbia's respect for nature."'
There are environmentally sensitive marshlands on the lake's northern side, which meant that decking would need to be built as an alternative to a traditional path.
Dembner said the project includes "the longest segment of decking," in CA's system, and construction on the project was done in-house with CA staff members.
Dembner added that the pathway is 10-feet wide, a new width standard for CA. She said this project is the first application of the new standard, which makes it easier for multiple uses – like pedestrians, cyclists, etc. – to share the pathway.