Connecting Columbia’s Pathways

On May 23rd I attended the Connecting Columbia’s pathways community meeting. I had signed up as an interested citizen, but ended up working the event as one of my first assignments in my new job at CA. I was interested in the meeting, as Columbia’s pathway system was one of the biggest reasons we chose to live in Columbia versus neighboring cities, and it was the proximity to many pathways that convinced us to buy our particular house.

The map below was the main magnet for the evening. It is a poster of the current CA pathway system and the proposed changes brought to light from the study by CA and the Toole Design Group. The Toole Design Group consultants were stationed near this map, adding suggestions for improvements that came from people at the meeting.

As a newer resident of Columbia, I don’t know much of the history of Columbia and the Columbia Association. I know Columbia was a planned community and that it was Jim Rouse’s brainchild, but beyond that, I don’t know specifics. Going to the meeting was really eye opening for me. I learned so much, not only from what the Toole Design Group and the Active Transportation Agenda Task Force had to say, but also learning from the residents who had lived and worked in the community. The diversity of those in attendance included people who have lived here from Columbia’s beginning, people who were part of the planning 45 years ago, and people who work in Columbia but live outside of it, as well as newcomers living in Columbia, like me.

I learned that while I knew that Columbia had more than 93.5 miles of pathways, what I didn’t realize was that they were originally designed for residents of a village to get around in their village and only their village. The hope was that these short walks between schools, pools, grocery stores and such would make the community more accessible to children, those without cars and the elderly. Plans for people using the paths to go from one village to another was never part of the master plan — or if they were, they were never completed. This study focused on what the Columbia Association can do to connect the pathways from village to village and throughout the whole of Columbia.

I learned another interesting tidbit too: Most of the paths in Columbia follow stream valleys, and, of course, stream valleys are lower than the surrounding area, so to get to and from the street to the paths, it means you’ll need to go down a hill to get to the main path and then up again to leave it. Now I know why the paths are so hilly!

Mostly, I left feeling pretty excited about the possibilities being presented. I look forward to hearing about what comes next. This summer the Active Transportation Action Agenda will detail specific recommendations, priorities, estimated costs and potential funding sources.


Melissa Sinclair works in the Communications & Engagement Division at Columbia Association (CA). Melissa recently moved to Columbia with her three-generation family. She has lived in more than a dozen cities and is looking forward to making Columbia, Md., her permanent home! Over the past year she has worked on losing weight, getting fit and doing volunteer work; she is now looking forward to working for CA after staying home with her family for the last several years. Melissa has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a master’s degree in educational administration. Click here to read more of Melissa’s Getting to Know CA series.


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