Planning Board Delays Decision on Symphony Woods

Residents worry that too many trees will be removed as part of the development of the Town Center park.


The Howard County Planning Board delayed a decision on the final development plan for after the Columbia Association detailed the plan. 

Residents, however, lamented the loss of mature trees in the park.

“We imagine Symphony Woods being the softer, greener, park space,” said Charlie Bailey, from the landscape architecture firm Mahan Rykiel Associates, during his presentation to the board. “It will contribute to the rich network of downtown open space.”

Bailey’s presentation included detailed drawings of the proposed developments to Symphony Woods that showed where features like new pathways, a fountain and connections to Merriweather Post Pavilion would be built.

“The vision for the park is that it will be a celebration of art, music and nature,” said CA landscape architect Jan Clark. “What’s going to bring activity to this park… is the programming that we anticipate.”

Clark said CA would work to promote outdoor activities such as art classes, fitness groups and events in the .

Bailey said the fountain would double as a performance space when the water wasn’t turned on and the path system would have a welcoming entrance for pedestrians walking from the mall area and along Little Patuxent Parkway.

However, the members of the public who came to testify weren’t so pleased with the plans to remove trees from the Woods.

Bailey said under the worst-case scenario, 64 trees would be removed to make room for the updates.

“To know that the tall stand of trees… will be cut down to make space for man-made paths and a fountain fills [my wife and I] with sorrow,” said Rex Carpenter, of Columbia.

Wendell Thompson, who was speaking on behalf of a group called “Preserve the People’s Trees”, presented a counter plan to the board that he said would only remove 12 trees.

Thompson asked the board to “reject the CA plan as it stands, we want a park that’s more harmonious with nature.”

And Holly McFarland, of Columbia, said, “I’m very alarmed by the possible removal of any mature trees to make way for development.”

Bailey said they have been examining the trees in Symphony Woods to make sure exotic trees, such as full-grown cherries, are preserved while unhealthy trees are removed.

Despite the concern related to the trees, one person was pleased with the plan.

George Barker, of Columbia, said the development of Symphony Woods is an opportunity to build a park that can be exceptional, maybe even world-class.

“It is amazing how few people actually frequent Symphony Woods,” said Barker. “What is being proposed is a classic attempt at what parks are supposed to do and parks are supposed to attract people.”

After testimony concluded, the board agreed to delay a decision on the final development plan until its next meeting, scheduled for July 19.

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Christine July 13, 2012 at 05:39 PM
If they do the redevelopment, will Symphony of Lights still be able to go on there? For the record, I'm all for this becoming a walkable, usable park - I love trees, but if the walking paths all over Columbia, and the multiple beautiful neighborhood parks can be used as an example of how we find balance between nature and people, then I think the CA will figure out a way to maintain as much of the natural beauty as they can while making it all more accessible. The plans look great to me.
Andrew Metcalf July 13, 2012 at 05:48 PM
They said at the meeting that current events that happen in the park, such as Wine in the Woods, will continue (and hopefully improve) as a result of the enhancements.
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