By Tracy Dye
Much of what makes spring such a welcome arrival happens on its own. Flowers and trees bloom. The days get longer and the temperatures warmer.
Those are plenty of reasons to get outside in Columbia’s beloved open space. And each year, Columbia Association springs into action to help make our community even more beautiful.
CA’s Open Space Management team gets to work for the season long before the frost has thawed. Several thousand bulbs are planted during winter in preparation for spring. Flowers are ordered in December for planting in May. CA crews plant more than 14,000 annuals — flowers that grow for one season — to make Columbia more colorful.
That’s actually fewer annual flowers than CA used to plant. Instead, it is increasingly turning to perennials, flowers that live for many years and don’t need to be watered as often.
“We’re always striving to do things in a way that improves sustainability and eliminates waste,” said Jan Clark, CA’s landscape services manager.
But it’s not just flowers that enhance the landscape. In April, planting projects take place, such as adding shrubs to Lake Kittamaqundi in Downtown Columbia.
“At places like Lake Kittamaqundi, we have projects where we keep the vegetation low and the views open,” Clark said. “Flowers are far from the only thing we do for beautification. From time to time, we will replace landscaping and do other enhancements.”
And to ensure that all types of greenery are growing healthily, CA mulches planting beds all over town.
Meanwhile, it takes a lot of effort to keep up with the turf. Several specialized lawn mowers are used to maintain 700 acres of grass. For the lakes, two behemoth boats with floating lawn mowers are used all summer long to remove submerged vegetation. Both boats are just over 33 feet long and specially made with conveyor belts, cutting bars and paddle wheels.
How you can pitch in
They say it takes a village. In Columbia’s instance, volunteers from all 10 villages took up the task during the annual Columbia Cleanup Day this March, picking up trash that had accumulated in open space.
But community members can pitch in throughout the year by letting CA know of any issues they may see in Columbia’s open space by calling 410-312-6330 or emailing Open.Space@ColumbiaAssociation.org.
“We have more than 7,000 neighbors in Columbia that we interact with,” said Sean Harbaugh, the Open Space Management Division’s assistant director. “These are property owners, renters and businesses. They tell us what they see, and we’re responsive to whatever calls and concerns come through.”
For more information, visit ColumbiaAssociation.org/openspace.
Five ways to enjoy the warm weather
If you like bike rides: Head out on the 95 miles of pathways, and mark your calendars for this year’s Columbia BikeAbout, which is planned for Saturday, Sept. 29.
If you want fun with your dogs: Head on over to Columbia DogPark near the Harper’s Choice Village Center (ColumbiaAssociation.org/dogpark), and save the date for CA’s annual Dog Day Afternoon event on Saturday, Oct. 13, 10am-2pm (ColumbiaAssociation.org/dogday).
If you love the lakes but want something new: Try out Jackson Pond, a hidden gem in Long Reach, located north of Tamar Drive and east of Phelps Luck Road.
If you’re seeking family fun: Head to Columbia SportsPark for mini-golf, batting cages, a skate park and more. Visit ColumbiaSportsPark.org for more information.If you enjoy movies and concerts: This year’s Lakefront Summer Festival runs from June-September, with a packed schedule of free music and family friendly flicks, plus Dancin’ Under the People Tree. A full schedule will be posted in the coming months at ColumbiaAssociation.org/lakefrontfestival.