Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Symphony Woods And Security

The Columbia Association briefed the County Council last week on plans to turn Symphony Woods into a proper downtown park, complete with "interactive water feature," wide paths, concession stand (the C.A.fe?) and public restrooms. Woodland gardens would be planted, and the pond back behind Merriweather might be turned into an elegant setting for outdoor weddings. (Here's links to CA's summary of the plan and a Sun story).

CA said it hoped to go forward with the $5.5 million project regardless of what happens with General Growth's broader development plans, possibly starting next summer.

We also learned a thing or two about security.

For instance, one reason some people apparently don't find the current park all that inviting is that the canopy of trees is so dense that it makes the park seem dark and forbidding. So the proposal calls for thinning out some of the weaker trees to bring in more sunlight.

But shining a little light on the park is apparently the extent of safety improvements. Chick Rhodehamel, CA's vice president for open space management, said there are no plans to hire "park rangers" to patrol the woods.

It's not like safety is not an issue downtown. HoCo police currently have officers on bikes patrolling the town's pathways, and the mall has its security forces in their SUVs with lights perpetually flashing. Their presence, while reassuring, also reminds us of the reason why they are there -- as a deterrent to crime.

Would a park ranger send a different, more inviting, message to visitors of this new "walkable" downtown?

After all, in his presentation on downtown redevelopment, General Growth's Gregory Hamm said Baby Boomers place a high value on activity and safety in the suburbs. We're guessing boomers aren't the only ones.

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