Columbia Association's new Inner Arbor Plan represents a dramatic shift from its original plan for Symphony Woods. Gone are the simple pathways and central fountain, replaced with a cluster of buildings coined the Arts Village, an "iconic" sculpture, an elevated tree walkway and a parking garage.
A change.org petition asking the Columbia Association Board of Directors to approve the new Inner Arbor Plan for Symphony Woods garnered more than 130 signatures in its first three days on the web.
The petition was started by Columbia resident Ian Kennedy, who is also the communications director at the Horizon Foundation. Ten years ago, Kennedy formed a group with a friend called "Save Merriweather" that lobbied General Growth Properties from downsizing the concert venue that sits in the middle of Symphony Woods.
In a letter attached to the petition, Kennedy wrote the Inner Arbor Plan "balances both natural beauty with artistic beauty. It includes iconic sculptures, performance spaces, tree houses, a canopy walk, plazas, and a connection to Merriweather Post Pavilion that could turn regular concerts into magical experiences."
Details about the plan that are still unknown include its total cost and how many trees will have to be cut down for construction, according to CA officials.
To pay for the park, CA officials said a 501(c)3 trust would be established that could accept gifts and grants, which CA couldn't legally accept as a 501(c)4.
Residents who expressed concern about the Inner Arbor Plan worried about the rush to have it approved by CA's Board and that the park may be overdeveloped.
In a letter to Explore Howard, Long Reach resident Russ Swatek wrote, "Many were concerned about the impact on the woods [in the original plan] by a few paths and a fountain and the number of mature trees to be removed was reduced. Now [CA] President [Phil] Nelson has announced that the CA Board may approve the new plan as early as Feb. 14. Where are the public presentations and opportunity for input?"
CA offered opportunities for the public to speak out on the plan at their meeting on Jan. 24 and another meeting at Slayton House in Wilde Lake to discuss the plan is scheduled for Thursday from 7:30 - 9 p.m.
CA's board indicated it may vote on the new plan as soon as Feb. 14, the board's next meeting.
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