What Does it Take to Maintain Columbia’s Pathways?

November 21, 2022

Caring for the largest pathway system in the region is a 365-day a year job for CA’s Open Space Operations crew!

CA’s Director of Open Space Operations, Nick Mooneyhan, shared a glimpse into what it takes to maintain 95 miles of pathways. 

Why is this work so important?

Our unique pathway system is a special component of Columbia’s open space. This quote from the Columbia MD Archives shows how this has been intentional from the beginning:

“Columbia’s plan identified almost one fourth of the total acreage as permanent open land in the form of lakes, parks, pathways, playing fields, golf courses, and for other recreational and aesthetic purposes. Open space was woven all through the city, enhancing the beauty, utility and value of homes and apartments.” -Columbia Today brochure, 1968 

According to Nick, our pathways are representative of what Columbia is meant to be — a connected community. 

“I like to use the term ‘linear park’,” says Nick. “The people of Columbia essentially live in a park with this trail system that connects all the cul-de-sacs, tot lots, lakes, and all of the CA amenities and facilities. It’s pretty incredible that you can use our pathway system to commute to work, walk to school or pool-hop in the summer.”


Pathway maintenance 

We have 25 Open Space Operations team members who are dedicated to keeping our pathways in great shape. This includes:

✅ Mowing the pathway shoulders every other week, from April through November.

✅ Pruning vegetation to allow for a safe line of sight. 

✅ Removing dead and hazardous trees that overhang on the pathways.

✅ Removing debris (such as leaves, grass and soil) as needed. 

✅ Handling minor erosion adjacent to the pathways by backfilling with soil and seeding, or in some cases, crushed stone.  

✅ Grinding down any exposed tree roots for safety.  

✅ Plowing snow and treating icy spots in the winter (this is especially important because 80% of the pathway network is used by children walking to school).

✅ Inspecting and pressure-washing bridges.

Tot lot maintenance 

Tot lots are another unique feature of our pathways. Keeping 170 tot lots clean and safe for kids in the community to enjoy is a major component of our team’s work.

Our tot lot inspection program involves biweekly maintenance, which means replenishing mulch, cleaning up trash, monitoring surrounding trees for safety and checking the swings/equipment. Our team also pressure washes equipment, replaces swings seats and maintains signage. Don’t forget replacing the mulch at each tot lot every 5-7 years!

How YOU can help us maintain the pathways

CA appreciates your efforts to keep our pathways clean! Here’s how you can do your part:

  • If you bring anything into open space, remember to take it back.
  • Properly dispose of trash and recycling in our bins. 
  • Report any issues you observe (vandalism, hazardous trees, etc.) to 410-312-6330 or open.space@columbiaassociation.org 

Click here to download an electronic pathway map.

🌟 Nick’s favorite pathway: “In King’s Contrivance, there’s a pathway that runs from Sweet Hours to Broadcloth Way. There’s barely any homes and great views of the Middle Patuxent River, so it feels like the wilderness. You can park at Amherst House and then explore!” 


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