CA Examining Three Ways to Loop Lake Kittamaqundi Path

For years residents have been interested in connecting the path, says CA.


Last month, the Columbia Association presented three plans to encircle Lake Kittamaqundi with a footpath designed by BayLand environmental designers.

CA's board already approved planning and engineering funds for the project, according to Dennis Mattey, CA's director of construction.

Currently the pathway traces about two-thirds of the lake, ending in a small loop at Kennedy Gardens, on the east side.

The plan to encircle the lake has been in Howard County's general plan for years and was highlighted in CA's active transportation action agenda, according to Jane Dembner, CA's director of community building and sustainability.

"The pathway around the lake has long been envisioned," said Dembner, in an email. "Nature lovers, runners, walkers, hikers and cyclists are enthusiastic supporters of this missing link around Lake Kittamaqundi. It is also an important part of providing better pedestrian and cycling connections in, to and around Downtown Columbia."

The three plans to complete the pathway vary in cost and how the loop is completed.

The first pathway alignment would pave a current dirt trail that extends where the paved pathway ends, loop the paved pathway around the north section of the lake and connect it to the existing pathway near the Sheraton Columbia Town Center hotel. This plan would also include a footbridge and a boardwalk over flood and wetlands areas that exist at the northern tip of the lake. The total length of the completed loop would be 2 miles. This plan is estimated to be the least expensive, at $513,075 along with a $2,110 annual maintenance cost estimate.

The second pathway alignment would bisect the northern tip of the lake, called Lake Forebay, by building a boardwalk across it. The existing dirt trail from Kennedy Gardens would be paved in this alignment as well. The loop would be 1.8 miles in this plan and the cost is estimated at $644,925 along with $4,250 in estimated yearly maintenace costs.

The third and most expensive alignment proposal is to build a bridge across the river that would connect an extended pathway from Kennedy Gardens with the pathway in front of the Sheraton. That plan would feature a "landmark bridge and unique lake viewing experience" as well as providing boating access under the bridge, according to the planners. The loop would be 1.2 miles long with this plan. The cost is estimated at $899,325 along with $6,760 in annual maintenace.

In its feasibility study, BayLand recommended CA choose the first plan because it provides the longest trail, is least expensive in intial cost and maintenance and has the least environmental impacts to the lake's wetlands.

CA is presenting the three plans to the Town Center Village Board on March 27, according to Mattey.

If a consensus can be reached on a plan, construction would likely begin in the summer of 2014, said Mattey. But first, CA would have to obtain permits from the county, state and Army Corps (due to wetlands and waterways), said Mattey.

CA's board approved $50,000 in Fiscal Year 2013 for a study and $220,000 in Fiscal Year 2014 for planning designing and engineering of the loop, according to CA's spokesperson David Greisman. Greisman said these funds will be more than what's needed and extra funds will be applied to construction. The remaining funds for construction will be requested in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, according to Greisman.

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Daniel February 22, 2013 at 02:03 PM
I vote for #1- the lake already has a lot of constructed features, so I don't think we'll miss the bridge, and the longer trail would make a nice running loop.
Paul Hess February 22, 2013 at 04:25 PM
"It is also an important part of providing better pedestrian and cycling connections in, to and around Downtown Columbia." Am I missing something? How exactly is a closed, unattached loop around the lake going to help increase non-motorized transit in the area? It's not attached to any other trails (because it's hemmed in by Rt. 29 and existing neighborhoods), doesn't provide alternate access to the pedestrian bridge over Rt. 29, and doesn't have any apparent connections with the proposed trail from central Columbia to the Dobbin/Columbia Gateway area. As a stand-alone loop trail, its OK; as a part of a trail network (like Lake Elkhorn), it would be much better.
Michaelwritescode February 22, 2013 at 08:03 PM
@Paul There exists a paved footbridge over route 29 that connects east and west Columbia although how much the bridge actually gets used is a bit of a matter of debate. The project Bridge Columbia is trying to lobby to get the bridge replaced with some fancy features but it seems like it has been passed over in favor of other downtown redevelopment efforts (or at least I haven't seen any news on Patch about it in a few months). The path around the lake is largely unpaved once you get beyond the restaurants. Paving the loops would allow bikes to easily access the mall by taking a paved path on the eastern side of the river as well as making it safer due to increased foot trafffic. Right now it's mildly sketchy since you're kind of just walking down an isolated dead end path. If you ask me the short bridge of plan 2 mimics the bridge in Centennial Park which is a nice little feature. At least this is what I imagine to be the reasoning behind it.
Melissa February 22, 2013 at 11:13 PM
The bridge is nice, but I don't think it justifies the cost. I prefer plan #1, but either way I'm glad the loop will be completed. When I first moved to Columbia and walked the pathway the first time I was confused when it just ended abruptly 3/4 of the way around.
Paul Hess February 23, 2013 at 03:56 AM
@Michaelwritescode, The current trail is more or less paved from the restaurants all the way to (and across) the pedestrian bridge. There is an area behind the old Rouse building parking lot which has gravel, but only because there has been a lot of work on the wetlands and dredging the lake over the past year or two. Whatever sketchiness may (or may not be) present on and around the pedestrian bridge across Rt. 29 would be unchanged, as this plan has nothing to do with the existing bridge. All it does is complete the loop trail around Lake Kittamaqundi. As far as accessing the mall from the waterfront area, this proposed trail does not address that concern; the existing surface streets and sidewalks are decent for that purpose at this time (IMO). I'm all for more trails, but presenting it as a boon to local non-motorized transit (as Ms. Dembner's quote implied) is dishonest. It does not add connections to existing trails or surface streets, and it does not provide a more direct route for access to workplaces or neighborhoods than what is already present. It may have a positive (though indirect) impact on crime in the area, but only because it would provide another draw for the waterfront, which is woefully underutilized. More people using the area in positive ways = less crime. I'm not against the project; I just don't appreciate it being misrepresented as a boon to car-free commuting in the area.
Genevieve McCardell February 23, 2013 at 05:12 AM
I see an isolated place for robberies...the path around the lake is a waste of money and a safety problem.
Fran February 25, 2013 at 08:36 PM
As it is now, the space in right in front of the restaurants is often busy with pedestrians during business hours and especially during the best weather, the same peak times people want to bike or run. An alternate on the other side of the lake will help increase utilization and distribute the load on the lake area during peak times. More people can fit into the area, enjoy the lake, and contribute to the health of the lakeside businesses there. The other side would also help provide a straighter, less cluttered through-path for the cyclists and runners going past the lake, not circling it. They can get to their destinations quicker. Biking on sidewalks is not a good long term solution for the downtown area when the density and walk-ability increases as envisioned. So I think that suggestion is short-sighted. Biking on the roads there is good for expert, confident riders, but this is a very small percentage of the population. Hopefully this lake-side missing link gets built, and the roads also improve so that beginner and mid level riders can use the roads as well.
Brian England February 26, 2013 at 12:45 AM
At first I thought a simple bridge just to connect the loop would be good but then I thought of all the great walking bridges around the world in Dublin, London, Melbourne etc, maybe something special should be built. Where we can pause look at wildlife and reflect on what a great town we live in.
esh March 03, 2013 at 03:22 PM
I agree with Brian England. My first choice is for the bridge. Being able to walk out over the water very much appeals to me. Children would also love it. Second choice is the boardwalk. I like that long path in this plan; it includes at least a small bridge. I'd actually like to see the big bridge AND the longer path. Columbia is known for its paths. An investment in this plan at the heart of Columbia is a great idea.
Charlene Riikonen March 03, 2013 at 06:47 PM
Just want to make sure all routes are safe.
Ted in Columbia March 03, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Since these kinds of projects are often way underestimated, the best risk/benefit option with the least impact on the lake itself is... Alignment #1 FTW!
fran March 26, 2013 at 02:52 AM
#1 longer is better ....less expensive....if we are into health and a sense of nature lets go with#1...since I live on the path i would love it.......and I will wave to all the runners, bikers and nature lovers....fran......
fran March 26, 2013 at 02:56 AM
thats such a great idea....I like a longer path and we do have to consider costs to build and the yearly upkeep


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