I had a hankering to eat outdoors last night, so I convinced my family to go to the Tomato Palace. Eating at the lakefront is a pretty rare event for us. It just doesn't come up on a regular rotation of dining out choices. By the time we had picked up M. from youth group it was after seven, and a bit too chilly and breezy for eating outside.
It was clear when we arrived that we weren't the only people who wanted to be by the lakefront. The Tomato Palace was full, and we had to wait a few minutes for a table. That's pretty good for a Sunday night, in my opinion. (But I am not an expert on the lakefront restaurants. Maybe they're busy every night?) We were seated next to a large party celebrating a family birthday. The gentleman appeared to be in his eighties. They were a happy bunch. I wondered if they had many years of family celebrations at the Tomato Palace.
As we walked back to our car after the meal, and negotiated the narrow roads that lead back to Little Patuxent Parkway, I was struck yet again by how uninviting that area is. The lakefront itself is beautiful. But that entire piece of real estate approaching the scenic views is not. Why would you want to park your car and noodle around? There are no fun little shops, places to pause, rest, or play.
That whole area makes no sense to me from a pedestrian point of view. Yes, you can eat at a restaurant. You can enjoying lovely views, ride the paddle boats, walk around the lake: once you "get there", But there isn't any synchronicity in the land around it. I want more reasons to hang out, shop, play, noodle around. Perhaps that's why I enjoy the Festival weekend so much, because it adds more of that sense of active enjoyment to the area.
I'm very excited to see Howard County examining its Pedestrian Master Plan, and I look forward to learning more about the Open Streets initiative. If we want to attract younger people to live here, or entice our own young people to stay, we need to respond to their desire to walk, bike, and actively enjoy the areas where they work and live.
I think that definitely means looking at places we already have and analyzing how well they "work" together for life in the 21st century.