The Inner Arbor plan takes shape, part 8: Revising the plan

3 minute read

This post continues my ongoing series on the evolution of the Inner Arbor plan for Symphony Woods in downtown Columbia, Maryland; for a list of previous posts see part 7. In this post I look at recent changes to the proposed designs.

Since the pre-submission meeting [PDF] on December 2, 2013, the Inner Arbor project has been moving forward: First, the Inner Arbor Trust has achieved 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. This is important for at least three reasons: It means that contributions to the Inner Arbor Trust will be tax-deductible, which may help motivate some individuals and for-profit corporations to provide funding. It may also make it easier for the Inner Arbor Trust to solicit donations from philanthropic foundations: Private foundations don’t care about the tax-deductibility aspect, but foundations typically make grants only to organizations with 501(c)(3) status. Finally, it ensures at least a basic level of financial transparency for the Inner Arbor Trust, since 501(c)(3) organizations must make their Federal tax returns (the so-called Form 990) available for public inspection.

On a more interesting topic (for those of us who are not nonprofit lawyers), the Inner Arbor Trust has published some revisions to the Inner Arbor plan in advance of its presenting the design to the Howard County Design Advisory Panel.1 (The Inner Arbor Trust had previously submitted its site development plan to the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning in early February.) The new plan includes two major changes, the replacement of the Play Maze feature and the addition of several new soundscape features.

Merriweather Park original plan

Original Merriweather Park master plan, as presented at the pre-submission meeting December 2, 2013. Click for a higher-resolution version. Image © 2013 Inner Arbor Trust; used with permission.

As seen in the above graphic, the Play Maze feature was originally proposed for the northern part of the park, immediately northeast of the Picnic Table. As seen in the graphic below, the area of the Play Maze is now proposed to be left as open space. To fulfill the function of the Play Maze the Inner Arbor Trust has proposed the Merriground, a new feature located in a space the original plan had earmarked for a “to be determined” feature referred to as the Nest.

The original plan also had two features near the northwest and west entrances to the park, the Word Art and Letter Garden respectively. The new plan shows soundscape features at all four entrances to the park; the features are collectively referred to as the Merriweather Horns. The revised plan does not show the Word Art and Letter Garden features, but the accompanying press release [PDF] doesn’t explicitly mention them as being replaced. Presumably this will be clarified at the Design Advisory Panel meeting.

Revised Merriweather Park plan

Revised Merriweather Park master plan, as published prior to the Design Advisory Panel meeting February 26, 2014. Click for a higher-resolution version. Image © 2014 Inner Arbor Trust; used with permission.

I’ll have more to say on the revised plan in my next post. In the meantime for more information see the original press release [PDF], the Baltimore Sun story by Luke Lavoie, and the Washington Post story by Dan Beyers; for more opinions see the blog post by Bill “Marshmallow Man” Woodcock.


  1. For those wishing to attend, the meeting is at 7 pm on Wednesday, February 26, in the Ellicott City Room of the George Howard building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, Maryland. Note that if you do attend the meeting you can discuss it the next evening at the HoCoBlogs party, 5:30-7:30 pm on Thursday, February 27th, at the White Oak Tavern, 10030 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, Maryland.