Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Columbia Questions


The Columbia Association wants to know what you think. They’re using their social media outreach to invite residents to participate in an information-gathering process. From Twitter:

Our friends at Ayers Saint Gross have loved talking to our community about how to improve the look and feel of CA spaces at events like Books in Bloom.

Photo credit: Columbia Association

Here's your chance for another feedback opportunity! 

This Thursday, June 2, the team is hosting a virtual open forum to make it easy for everyone to offer their input. 

Use this link to join the forum (starts at 7pm on Zoom):

Can't make it? Take this online survey and have your voice heard:

I took the survey. It was actually brief enough to complete without feeling a growing anxiety that one is being held hostage by multiple choice questions. I have a few comments. (Big surprise.)

The survey asks where you first heard about the Columbia Association. They give you a possible list to chose from. Mine wasn’t there, so I had to choose “Other.” This is a problem for me because I first learned about CA from the good folks at tha Oakland Mills Community Association at the Other Barn. Shouldn’t Village Associations be on that list? They aren’t exactly peripheral to Columbia’s community. And they aren’t the same thing as CA. 


There’s a bit about pathways and signage. I think that pathway signage has improved so much over the years, largely because of the work of the late Jane Dembner. However, we still don’t have signs at the street/sidewalk which indicate the location of play areas. After all these years I’m still clamoring for dedicated signs that proclaim, “To the Tot Lot.” When you are new in the area and are navigating your neighborhood on foot with young children you really, truly want to know where the playgrounds are. 

If you aren’t willing to tell people, don’t be surprised if they don’t use them.

My next bit of difficulty came with two questions that felt so similar that I switched back and forth between the two pages several times trying the ascertain the difference. It was rather like those stressful moments at the opticians where you are being switched back and forth rapidly between two almost identical prescriptions. 

“Which of the Columbia Association assets were you not aware of prior to this survey?”

“Of the following list, are there any assets you didn’t realize were part of the Columbia Association prior to this survey?”

Having now read each one about ten times I’m clear on the distinction, but, it wasn’t straightforward at the first reading. I can see what the survey is going for but somehow it felt counterintuitive to me.

My last concern has to do with terminology or accurate naming. In a listing of Columbia Association community assets/properties they use the name “Symphony Woods.” I suggest that most people who are frequenting that part of Downtown Columbia - - other than joggers and dog-walkers - - are coming to events in Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. Why not call it what it is today? Using “Symphony Woods” is a backward-glancing reference. If the survey is addressing the people who live in Columbia in 2022, maybe they should use names that current residents will know.

This may sound to you like I am splitting hairs. However, in a town where people are forever asking you how long you’ve lived here, I think CA should make a good-faith attempt to appeal to residents who are living in the present day. I’m sure it was not their intent, but, the misnaming feels out of touch, if not downright disrespectful.

All of that aside, I recommend that my Columbia readers take the survey or attend the Thursday night online session to share your views. What you think, and the experiences that have shaped how you feel, are important. Your response adds value to the process. There are a few spots where you can add additional comments and/or elaborate on your responses. It’s not all “check the box.”

It would be so thrilling to get responses from a variety of age groups as well as participation from every village. Without that variety of input, surveys results can often depict an incomplete picture of what they were meant to reveal.

Tell somebody, okay? Spread the word. 

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