Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Secret Weapon

Last night the pre-submission meeting for the Inner Arbor Trust's plan for Symphony Woods was held at Howard Community College. Yet again I am grateful for their light-up signs that direct visitors after dark. I got lost going to a party in my own neighborhood the other evening, and those light-up signs would've really helped!

Looking at all those in attendance, I pondered just what was assembled in that room: how many years of education, of professional experience, of political experience, and of life experience in Columbia. In the face of all that, I brought something that no one else had.

A thirteen year-old.

Yes, Margo, my newly-minted teenager whose GT research project last year was the study of the plan for Symphony Woods. She was the only person in the room under the age of 21. This park is her future, and her children's future. To be a success, it must appeal not just to us, but to her. (I am hoping that she will consent to be interviewed on this topic for a future blog post. You never can tell with teens.)

A big win in her mind was the maze/play area. As a young teen, she often feels it would be uncool to play on a traditional playground. And yet the energy and desire to play don't automatically shut off at a predetermined age. The designers of the park have conceived a play space which is so beautifully open-ended that it will encourage play, participation, and interaction from a wide range of ages.

We didn't stay for the Q and A session because it was 7:30 and we hadn't had dinner yet. As we sat at Subway, eating our sandwiches, I told her about a random thought I had during the presentation.

"Just think of all of the people who would want to have their wedding photographs taken there," I said. She thought for a moment, then replied.

"It would be a great place to shoot a music video."

And there you have it. When someone says something you never would have thought of in a million years, then you are in the right sort of company. Her comment came out of left field--to me. But it highlighted an essential truth about this plan: it's not about what we have always done, it's about combining things in new ways to appeal to the wider community.

The plans for Merriweather Park do exactly that. They use natural and synthetic elements. They employ traditional and cutting-edge materials. They draw on familiar and forward-thinking concepts. They encourage active and passive recreation. And they do it in many ways I have never imagined. If you are looking for a sign, this is it: think big.

It's worth it.





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