Monday, November 17, 2014

A Lovely Natural Setting

Yesterday I stopped by the Walgreens at the corner of happy and--wait--I mean, Thunder Hill and Route 175. The parking lot was relatively full and Girl Scouts had set up shop outside, selling cookies. The grounds have been recently replanted and look lovely. It is hard to imagine that this business was the cause of such conflict for some local residents.

Take a look at this post on Tales of Two Cities for a taste of the controversy. Certain residents described an empty parking lot and a boarded-up building as a "lovely natural setting" which should not be despoiled with a retail business. Individuals circulated petitions, stirring up fear that the Walgreens would be open 24 hours and attract a bad element. The traffic pattern would be hazardous and lead to multiple accidents. It was suggested that Rouse himself never wanted that space to be retail (not true) and that the Walgreens would be the destruction of the Village Center (hasn't happened.)

In fact, the Food Lion has actually upped its game since the opening of the Walgreens, and we have added an additional business, the Little Caesars pizza place, since the Walgreens opened. Our local pub has survived a misguided move to close it down and was supported by the community, the Village and the County. The truth of the matter is that the Walgreen's is a thriving and much-needed business in our community.

Why do I bring this up today? Well, many of the very same people who spread fear and rumor and circulated petitions against the Walgreens are now on the team that is fighting the Inner Arbor Trust and the creation of Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. That's right. The people who described a weedy parking lot in disrepair with a boarded-up business as a "lovely natural setting" want to tell Columbia what a people's park should look like.

Should a "park for a lifetime" be inspiring? Exciting? Far-reaching in imagination and design? Or should it put one in mind of memorials and the dead? And who should choose how our future unfolds? Should it be the kind of people who traffic in smear tactics and whisper campaigns?

Look around and see who is supporting the Inner Arbor. You will see all sorts of people--single, married, married with kids, young professionals, parents, middle-aged folks and grandparents. The support is coming from a wide variety of residents. Then take a very close look at those who seek to take it down.

Consider the source.

The final hearing of the Planning Board will be this Thursday evening at 7pm at the George Howard Building. You have an opportunity to show up in person and speak for a park that will be for all of us. Why does it matter? I think Bill Woodcock said it extremely well:

At the last hearing I called the Inner Arbor "A park for a lifetime". And it's exactly that. One will be able to take their children and grandchildren to the Merrigoround; as teenagers, they'll be hanging out at the Picnic Table; as young adults, walk under on a date, maybe even propose to their beloved, at the Caterpillar; and attend concerts and many cultural events at the Chrysalis and at Merriweather Post Pavilion. And all the while enjoy nature in its purest form.

Let's show the Planning Board what it looks like when people get excited in favor of something. I imagine that it will be a welcome and refreshing experience for them.





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