Columbia Council unanimously OKs program to adopt, clean pathways

Some on panel hope crime, loitering will be prevented

August 27, 1999|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Council unanimously agreed last night to pursue an "Adopt-A-Path" program in which residents and community groups will adopt sections of the community's trademark pathways in an effort to keep them free of trash.

The voluntary program, conceived by Neil Dorsey of the Owen Brown Village Board, will be co- ordinated by the Columbia Association with the 10 village associations. CA will provide trash bags, tools and other supplies and arrange locations for trash-bag pickup, according to program recommendations made by CA's director of open space management, Chick Rhodehamel.

The cost to CA is expected to be minimal, Rhodehamel said.

"I think there's a lot of consciousness being raised now [among residents] about caring for their community and their concerns, and we really need to foster that," said Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, the Columbia Council representative from Owen Brown.

Dorsey, who is chairman of Owen Brown's Community Safety Committee and runs the county sheriff's community services program, proposed the idea for an Adopt-A-Path program in Columbia -- similar to programs Howard County has for adopting parks and roadways -- at a village board meeting in June.

Last night, he told the council that such a communitywide effort will provide a way for Columbians to take pride in their community.

"It's not a big-ticket item," said Dorsey. "The big-ticket item is the volunteers and the people who are out there" cleaning up.

For many residents, Columbia's more than 80 miles of paved pathways, which are used by walkers, joggers and cyclists and maintained by CA's open space staff, are part of the planned community's suburban appeal.

But, in some neighborhoods, particularly areas surrounding the village centers, where teen-agers tend to loiter, the pathways have also become places to avoid at night.

Keeping the paths free of trash, Dorsey said, could discourage loiterers and help prevent nuisance crimes.

"The more people are out there, the less people congregate and cause problems," he said.

Columbia Council member Earl Jones of Oakland Mills suggested that the program also include a public safety element.

In addition to picking up trash, he said, volunteers could also look out for -- and report to county police -- suspicious or illegal behavior. "If you clean up the area, you might keep your eyes and ears open," Jones said.

Because police do not regularly patrol CA pathways and do not have blanket enforcement authority on the association's private property, Jones said, "maybe we could watch over our own paths, too, in terms of our behavior."

It is unlikely that signs recognizing the volunteers' work will be placed along the pathways, as is the practice in the county programs.

"We have enough visual pollution in this community as it is," said Cecilia Januszkiewicz, the council representative from Long Reach.

Those who participate will be recognized at the village level.

"It's always nice that people get some recognition for what they do," said Atkinson-Stewart.

Rhodehamel recommended against requiring a minimum number of cleanups a year, or specific terms for commitments of time from volunteers. He said keeping program guidelines flexible will encourage participation from residents.

"We ought to make it as easy and safe for them as possible," Rhodehamel said.

Pub Date: 8/27/99

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