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Symphony Woods Plan Sparks Concerns Over Elimination of Trees

The Columbia Association debates whether certain trees will be preserved in the park renovation plan.

Several Columbia Association board members said at a meeting Thursday night they were concerned about the number of trees that might be cut down to accommodate paths in a plan to redevelop .

Such concerns about older trees might put the timeline for the project in jeopardy, said CA Board Chair and River Hill Representative Michael Cornell.

“I’d hate to see this project get delayed on what trees can be saved,”  Cornell said. “We have to let go of every little thing and let the designers do their jobs.”

CA board member Alex Hekimian, the Oakland Mills representative, who is also chairman of the planning and strategy committee, was among those concerned about possible tree removal.

“Some of these trees are rather older, stately trees,” he said.

The redeveloped park's ground-breaking is scheduled for July of 2012. Its debated rebirth is part of the downtown plan, which was approved by the Howard County Council in February of 2010, and calls for more residential units, office and retail space in Columbia’s core.

Six neighborhoods in downtown Columbia, including Symphony Woods, are going to be redeveloped as part of the downtown plan. Owners of those areas must submit their proposals to be reviewed and approved by Howard County officials.

The CA board's Hickory Ridge representative, Gregg Schwind, also questioned some of the trees that may be marked to come down to accommodate paths, noting certain beech trees that should remain standing.

"There are some beautiful beech trees there I would hate to see go," Schwind said, prompting questions over whether the plan was set in stone or whether path trajectories could be changed.

No trees have actually been marked yet for removal, said Jan Clark, the Columbia Association landscape architect

The plans for the 36.2-acre area have been surrounding the details of paths, pavilions and even a possible carousel.

As part of a downtown plan involving six neighborhoods, the Columbia Association had proposed a plan for Symphony Woods involving new walking paths, additional parking, a water feature and new restroom facilities, by the Howard County Design Advisory Panel for “lacking vision.”

Shari Zaret, CA vice-chair and King’s Contrivance representative, said the Symphony Woods plan needs to be "a workable interface for 20 to 30 years out.”

“We’re building this for 20 years from now, and some of the trees may not be there then, it’s just nature,” she said.

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