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Symphony of Lights can continue but not on sensitive parkland | READER COMMENTARY

People walk around Ice & Fire, a winter wonderland festival at Symphony Woods, to take pictures of the light displays, roast marshmallows over firepits and meet Santa last December.
People walk around Ice & Fire, a winter wonderland festival at Symphony Woods, to take pictures of the light displays, roast marshmallows over firepits and meet Santa last December. (Nicole Munchel for the Baltimore/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The Columbia Association is not trying to close down the Symphony of Lights (”Columbia Association files lawsuit to halt annual Symphony of Lights event, citing violation of access rights,” July 7). The association has offered use of its land for a walk-through holiday event to benefit the Howard County General Hospital. What it is opposed to is an unauthorized vehicular parade across the park that primarily benefits It’s My Amphitheater Inc., an outside. for-profit corporation.

In the past, Symphony of Lights was held in the parking fields behind the Merriweather Pavilion. Now that Howard Hughes is building on that land, it became necessary to find a new site. IMA, the promoter for pavilion concerts and the producer of Symphony of Lights for the hospital, proposed to hold the event on the pavilion grounds. This was done in 2018 but involved unwanted incursions onto the Columbia Association’s Symphony Woods parkland. The association asked that the hospital find a more appropriate site but did allow the 2019 event to take place at the pavilion with the agreement that 2019 would be the last year this would happen.

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The hospital has decided not to continue to sponsor the event, and IMA took over, announcing that they intended to run Symphony of Lights at the pavilion in violation of the association’s property rights for as long as they chose to do so. The Columbia Association made numerous attempts to negotiate the matter with IMA but was ignored. There was no choice but to take IMA to court.

Symphony Woods is an environmentally sensitive park. It is closed to vehicular traffic aside for easements designed to allow necessary access to Merriweather’s backstage area. The association would have no problem working with the hospital to provide a walk-through experience that respects the nature of Symphony Woods but cannot allow an outside promoter to abuse the park and the Columbia Association’s legal rights.

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Dick Boulton, Ellicott City

The writer is a member of the Columbia Association’s Board of Directors

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