Symphony Woods renovation eyed

Design firm offers help in preserving park, making it user-friendly

July 23, 1999|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Council began last night to evaluate a proposal for help in redesigning Symphony Woods, Columbia's largest and, perhaps, most underused park.

Cyril B. Paumier Jr., a partner at the Columbia-based landscape design firm LDR International, told council members that the original team that developed the planned community, including the late James W. Rouse, intended for the 40-acre parcel to be the "most special place in Columbia."

"That dream has never been realized, in my point of view," he said.

In an effort to change that, LDR International, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, has offered to donate between 25 and 30 days of professional time to help the Columbia Association preserve the Town Center park and make it more accessible and user-friendly.

Symphony Woods, which is off Little Patuxent and Broken Land parkways in the heart of the community's downtown, has remained virtually unchanged since the early days of Columbia 30 years ago. Many residents have a difficult time even finding it.

Paumier said the park, in which Merriweather Post Pavilion is located, must be properly preserved if it is to be enjoyed by residents in 10 or 20 years.

Each year, CA's open-space management team evaluates how heavily attended public events such as Wine in the Woods and the Symphony of Lights affect the property from an environmental standpoint.

Paumier said he believes the space "is being used in a way that is abusing the quality of the soil, and the roots are being affected on the trees."

Many of the park's trees could die over time, he said, because, with no on-site irrigation, the soil is being "stampeded."

"These trees are old, and there's not a lot of forest being re-established," Paumier said.

Any redesign of the land should take into consideration ecological and environmental concerns, he said.

In 1994, CA hired LDR International, which worked on the design of Centennial Park on Route 108, to prepare a concept plan for renovations to Symphony Woods, but the only work done at the time was the dredging of the pond.

The original redesign plan, from which any new plan will be devised, had three structural components: construction of a main entrance, with signage, along Little Patuxent Parkway; creation of a pathway system, or promenade, circling the property; and connection of those pathways to the surrounding open space network.

Other proposed features included a formal garden; a "sound" garden, where music could be played through hidden speakers; a wildflower meadow; and seating for picnickers.

It is unclear how much the redesign would cost, or how it would be funded. A preliminary cost estimate prepared in conjunction with the 1994 plan totaled more than $375,000.

Paumier said he expects the planning phase of a project, which likely would include a resident survey and at least two public forums, to take about six months.

Paumier went before the Columbia Council with a proposal in March, but the council deferred making a decision on it because the session was about to end. Four new members have since been elected to CA's governing body.

Council members asked Paumier last night for a "checklist" of proposed on-site renovations and projects as the next step in the evaluation.

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