CA annual charge helps make Columbia one of the best places to live

Boy catching air on skateboard in sports park

By David Greisman

When you came to Columbia, you were no doubt drawn by the high quality of life here — the great schools, the award-winning library system, the picturesque open space and pathway system, and the incredible selection of activities and programs available for you to enjoy.

You are also a key reason why Columbia continues to be such a great place to live, work and play.

After all, the annual charge paid by residents and businesses covers more than half of the cost of the services and amenities provided by Columbia Association. Look all around Columbia — and you don’t need to look very far — and see that you’re getting more than your money’s worth, with a variety and quality of services, large and small, that should be expected of the No. 1 Small City in America.

Here are just some of the many programs and services you support:

Open space management

CA maintains nearly 3,600 acres of open space, which infuses Columbia with nature that can be accessed just steps from your door. A recent study showed that 98% of Columbia residents live within a 10-minute walk of parkland.

Within that open space, CA takes care of the 95-mile pathway system, more than 280 footbridges, 165 tot lots, three lakes and more than 40 ponds. CA also beautifies the landscape at dozens of other locations, including the plantings seen around Columbia’s trademark neighborhood signs. And CA cares for the natural environment, stabilizing streams, removing invasive species, and working to ensure that our outdoor areas remain wonderful places for us, wildlife and plantlife alike.

Arts and culture

For nearly as long as Columbia has been around, Columbia Association has encouraged residents to enjoy the arts through the highly popular annual Lakefront Summer Festival and its free movies and music. This year, there are 25 films and more than 50 concerts taking place into September, an incredible slate of entertainment.

The annual charge means CA can also spotlight the diversity that remains a proud hallmark of our community. The International Exchange and Multicultural Programs include exchange trips with Columbia’s sister cities, a World Languages Café where you can make new friends while practicing speaking languages, and events that teach people more about cultures from other parts of the globe.

A garden for growing people

James Rouse often referred to Columbia as a garden for growing people. CA’s annual charge helps fulfill that description with the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County, connecting organizations that need assistance with the volunteers seeking opportunities. There’s also the Columbia Community Exchange, a time bank that allows neighbors to help each other as part of the sharing economy.

Columbia Association also issues grants to organizations that further enhance its mission. Recent grants supported Columbia Festival of the Arts, the Community Foundation of Howard County, the Downtown Columbia Partnership, and the Inner Arbor Trust. And CA awards scholarships through its Spirit of Columbia program, which recognizes high schoolers who have exhibited exemplary community service.

Village associations

CA also grants annual charge revenue to the 10 village community associations, which work on an even more local level to provide a sense of, well, community for their residents.

The village community associations enforce their architectural covenants and guidelines — after all, what occurs on one property can have an effect on others, both in terms of aesthetic appeal as well as property values. They work as advocates for residents and provide information. And they host events and other programs that encourage neighbor-to-neighbor connectivity.

Annual charge now payable online

Starting this year, CA now accepts online payment for the annual charge. Learn more at