Letters to the editor

May 06, 2014

Power brokers count upon apathy about Symphony Woods

Despite my reputation as a community and political activist, I had developed a veil of apathy, indifference and cynicism about Columbia's "politics".

Quite frankly, I saw much of the decision-making about what happened at our village centers and public arenas as rigged in favor of an interlocking directorate, with certain barely elected, perhaps naive CA board members being used to do the bidding of the power brokers who were really calling the shots.

And, lest anyone think that things were different when the Rouse Company ran things, I would argue that we should not romanticize the early days of this community. Why did it take so long for there to be a solid plan to make the "downtown" a real downtown? Why have the village centers been allowed to remain in the mode of 1970's-thinking about community, and in most cases languish as a result?

So, instead, I turned my energies toward helping to elect local, state, and national politicians whom I thought would make a difference on progressive issues that are near and dear to my heart.

This past CA election struck me differently, however. How did we end up with a plan for Symphony Woods — also neglected for all these years — that seems to benefit some well-connected people under the guise of promoting public good and "art"?

It probably happened because those same power brokers were counting on people like me to remain apathetic, indifferent and cynical. However, I am counting on this community to ultimately do the right thing — and in this case, the right thing is to go back to Cy Paumier's carefully thought out plan for a downtown park we can be proud of.

Roni Goss Berkowitz


Don't replace Symphony Woods with juvenile amusements

The great urban parks in the United States and abroad are recognized and remembered for their landscape amenities, their form-giving walkway layouts, central gathering spaces and water features. The 2008 Master Plan for Symphony Woods envisioned a walkway plan and features that preserved 90 percent of the woodland landscape.

The heart of this plan was defined by a wide walkway encircling a central lawn and providing access to the Merriweather Post Pavilion, an interactive fountain, a cafe and future cultural arts facilities beyond.The 350-foot-wide central lawn was designed as gathering space for community events.

Jim Rouse and his planning team envisioned creating a "special people place" where the community could come together to celebrate: this was his dream for Symphony Woods.

In a news article in the Feb. 20 Columbia Flier, Martha Schwartz, the landscape architect of the 2014 Inner Arbor Plan said, "The circle is the unifying form across my work for Merriweather Park. Its generous geometry symbolizes bringing people together, the circle of  multigenerational life and of carefree play in the heart of the community." Ironically, the circle is far more evident in the 2008 Master Plan for Symphony Woods!

The 2014 Inner Arbor Plan lacks a central focus and sense of place — "there is no there there, anywhere." Also, it has over 900 feet of meandering walks that, together with a 300-foot-long picnic table, precludes any central gathering space. Over 50 percent of the 16-acre woodland site will be severely damaged by the construction equipment needed to build the meandering walks, the elevated boardwalk, three park structures and two buildings and for extensive excavation to install underground utilities.

The structures proposed in the Inner Arbor Plan are certainly creative and imaginative. Mostly, however, they are juvenile amusements that can hardly be called cultural arts facilities. They may have a place somewhere in Columbia, But not in Symphony Woods — our Central Park.

Jervis Dorton


Event captured Jim Rouse's life, legacy and vision

The sun shone on a brilliant celebration of Jim Rouse's life and legacy on Sunday, May 4, at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The event captured Rouse's vision and promoted the idea that Columbians take the vision forward. Packets of Black-Eyed Susan seeds distributed at the end of the event symbolized Rouse's belief that Columbia will never be finished; that future generations would continue to sow the seeds to create a community that valued the land and provided fertile soil for people to grow.

While the program looked back at Rouse's accomplishments, the message was to the future. The impressive turnout (estimated at 600-800 people) was testament to Rouse's success at building community.

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