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Merriweather Park 'Merriground' and Soundscapes Get Go-Ahead

The Howard County Design Advisory Panel approved the latest concepts from the Inner Arbor Trust for Symphony Woods.

"Merriweather Horns" will be constructed by Howard County-raised artist William Cochran. (Credit: Inner Arbor Trust)
"Merriweather Horns" will be constructed by Howard County-raised artist William Cochran. (Credit: Inner Arbor Trust)
Revised plans for the Inner Arbor, a project to modernize Symphony Woods, were met with unanimous approval Wednesday from the Howard County Design Advisory Panel.

Located off Little Patuxent Parkway, Symphony Woods is an underutilized 36-acre open space owned by the Columbia Association that gets used during events. The nonprofit Inner Arbor Trust is spearheading revitalization plans to turn it into a regional destination called "Merriweather Park."

Inner Arbor and a team of architects showcased their latest proposal before a panel of reviewers Wednesday night. Features added to the plan since its last public presentation in December were the "Merriground" and "Merriweather horns," according to the Columbia Association.

The "Merriground" is a nontraditional play space featuring a 40-foot tower, two slides and rope swings, the Howard County Times reported. There would reportedly be an emphasis on wooden elements.

The "Merriweather horns" would provide soundscapes at each of the park's four entrances. Clarksville native William Cochran, whose work includes the Community Bridge in Frederick, would design the sculptural horns.

“They could sound at 6 p.m. and call an end to the work day and prepare you for something new,” Michael McCall, president/CEO of the Inner Arbor Trust, told The Washington Post, noting the horns would serve as musical gateways to the park.

Ensuring development is harmonious with its surroundings is the role of the Design Advisory Panel, and its members' findings were overall favorable.

"The major substantive concern raised was whether the paths in the central part of the park were quite wide enough to handle the anticipated pedestrian traffic, especially during Wine in the Woods and major events at Merriweather Post Pavilion," blogger Frank Hecker wrote. "The panel asked the design team to take a second look at that."

The panel also asked the Inner Arbor Trust to review the pathway from the park that would spill out near The Mall in Columbiathe Howard County Times reported.

Within the park, wooden pathways will provide continuity, linking the various attractions, including those previously introduced: a 12-foot-wide "Caterpillar" made of a tubular metal frame with live plants and flowers as its exterior, separating Merriweather Park from Merriweather Post Pavilion; a green-blue-white metal "Chrysalis" amphitheater with a wooden floor; a visitors' center called the "Butterfly" building, with wooden decks, an art gallery, rooftop bar and flex space; and a lily pad area with a raised wooden walkway.

Next, the developers will submit their revised plans to the Department of Planning and Zoning, in hopes of gaining approval by the summer so they can begin construction on the Chrysalis amphitheater by the fall, according to the Howard County Times.

The project will span five to seven years and cost $30 million, according to The Washington Post, which reported the Columbia Association and Howard County will foot some of the bill, with grants and donations going toward the cost as well.

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Peri February 28, 2014 at 09:10 AM
I hope this will be accessible to ALL Columbia residents, not just those that belong to CA!
J Leland February 28, 2014 at 11:22 AM
Marie- Did you move to the neighborhood before they built MPP in 1967? Did you not know it was there? Maybe you should move near BWI and then complain about the noise there.
Bob Chasnow February 28, 2014 at 03:21 PM
The plan has frills and filigree but will it attract the people of Columbia in the numbers that we would all like? It seems the precious open space is taking on an Alice in Wonderland quality, mostly for the pleasure of the CA execs and staff who will be housed in a sumptuous new office building surrounded by what used to be Symphony Woods. Preferable to these expensive baubles or at least a "must" to be included would be an attractive but relatively inexpensive roof and support posts and water spigots needed for a permanent farmers market such as ones in Durham, NC, Richmond, VA, and other towns and cities across America. Weekends during the growing seasons in these places are transformed into true, spontaneous, gentle festivals, and when the pavilion is not in use as fresh local food market, it can be used for a picturesque outdoor fitness and exercise venue operated of course by our CA. Why turn our unique community asset into an ego trip for the uber design panel? The art we want to emphasize is the culinary art of healthy living. We need a reorientation of the panel towards what people actually want and would deeply enjoy.
Suzanne Gearhart March 15, 2014 at 12:44 PM
It's a shame to ruin the way it is currently. It's too small an area for such dramatic changes. Leave it alone . The areas around the mall are ruining the area already. Leave this last haven untouched.
Ursula Kondo March 16, 2014 at 12:56 PM
It would be a good idea to have a questionnaire included in the annual CA property tax bill, so that every homeowner in Columbia, could voice their opinion on what they would like to see done in our Symphony Woods Park. So far the Inner Arbor Plan keeps changing every month and by now it looks more like an amusement park than a relaxing oasis in the middle of a busy town. Both the original and the Inner Arbor Plan for Symphony Woods Park should be send to Columbia residents, so that everybody has a chance to compare the two plans and then decide how every family wants to see Symphony Woods Park developed. CA could start by having the plans out during April CA elections.

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