Town meeting to be held at Kahler Hall

March 09, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

Columbia residents will have a chance to tell community leaders how they think their neighborhoods can be protected against crime and what should be done to enhance Symphony Woods, the park surrounding Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The Columbia Town Meeting, set for 8 p.m. tomorrow at Kahler Hall in the Harper's Choice Village Center, is being touted by the Columbia Council as a way to promote more community involvement.

"We were looking for a draw. We wanted a hot topic," said Council Chairwoman Fran Wishnick of Oakland Mills village. "Our survey and our public sense says that public safety in the community is a hot topic."

The meeting will feature two speakers on crime prevention -- James Robey, Howard County's police chief, and Harvey Eisenberg, an assistant U.S. attorney.

Officials from Land Design Research Inc., a Columbia firm that's developing a plan to increase use of the 38-acre wooded park in Town Center without damaging its natural qualities, will make a presentation.

Council members who organized the meeting said that they wanted to provide a public forum to generate ideas beyond forming neighborhood watch programs on how to prevent crime, such as expanding programs for teen-agers or advocating support for certain county police programs.

"If we strengthen our community institutions and engage more people, then we are dealing with public safety issues" such as vandalism, said Councilwoman Norma Rose of Wilde Lake village. "If people feel a part of something, they're less likely to try to hurt it."

Ms. Wishnick said a 1992 council survey of residents showed they were worried about public safety. "Whether the number of incidents is high or not, people perceive there is a problem they'd like to deal with," she said.

Residents and representatives of several Columbia village boards have expressed concern about a lack of lighting on streets and pathways, Ms. Wishnick said.

The council is the board of directors for the nonprofit Columbia Association, which charges Columbia property owners an annual fee to manage the unincorporated city's recreational facilities, community programs and open space, such as Symphony Woods.

The association recently distributed a survey to Columbia households in its Columbia Currents newsletter asking for preferences on these options for Symphony Woods: gardens, pathways, exercise and fitness stations, picnic grounds, seasonal concession stand, arboretum, wildflower meadow, outdoor ice rink, sledding hill, fishing pond, sculpture and fountains.

Another option would be to do little to change Symphony Woods.

The park now contains scattered picnic tables and paths and a few buildings associated with Merriweather Post.

Last year, the first Wine in the Woods event, sponsored by the county, attracted about 10,000 to the park over a weekend last spring.

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