Where East meets West, Columbia-style

22 Aug


If you were to follow illegibly (and elusively) marked path starting near OMVC, and walk down a lovely wooded path, you’d find yourself here: Where East Columbia meets West Columbia.

Anyone have any citizen-input type of ideas of how we might do better than this?

What I’m highlighting in the picture, below, looked pretty skanky from close-up, where I was.



7 Responses to “Where East meets West, Columbia-style”

  1. wordbones August 22, 2007 at 3:32 pm #


    That bridge has had issues from Day 1. I can recall times when both side walls were fully covered with graffiti more reminiscent of the inner city than suburbia. Part of the challenge lies with who is responsible for maintaining the bridge. I think MDOT is somehow involved along with HoCo Pub Works (and perhaps even CA). That could explain why something skanky doesn’t get cleaned up in a timely manner.

  2. b.santos August 22, 2007 at 7:16 pm #

    In my opinion, there is a lot of emotion tied to the bridge over Route 29. Way back when, I can recall riding my bike (a brown Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat, a five-speed shifter, and a rear disk brake, I swear it weighed 100 pounds) down Pushcart Way, onto Gales Lane and then sprinting across Route 29 to get to west Columbia. Since its construction, I have always known it (and habitually call it) the People Bridge.

    During the 2005 downtown Charrette, I heard many people speak with passion about the bridge; about what it could be. Many wanted trolley car or even automobile access to be added to the bridge. In addition, many spoke of fear of walking because of the isolation in the woods on the east side of the bridge.

    Before I launch into my (until now) quietly held dreams of what could be, let us all consider the purpose of the bridge. It is a bridge designed to facilitate pedestrian and non motorized transport across the highway. In this respect, it accomplishes the purpose. However, I believe it has two other purposes. First, it should be a celebration of pedestrian activity, of health and wellness.

    Secondly, it should fulfill a civic purpose. It should capture the eye. It should announce to the automobile bound that something exciting is going on around them. That this is a place to stop and look around, to experience, to discover. It should be a marker that indicates to those traveling at highway speeds that, yes, you are in Columbia. The current concrete slab and chain link design does not even come close, and probably does not even register with those passing through.

    Now, given the lofty aspirations listed, I will try to base this dream in some reality. Clearly some limits must be placed, but where to start? I think the best place to start would be with previously constructed bridges. Bridges all over the world are celebrated as architectural landmarks. San Francisco, Sydney, New York (quite a few, actually), Tampa, London, Venice, etc…

    I would also like to specifically mention the entrance to the Milwaukee Art Museum (www.mam.org) designed by Santiago Calatrava. Now, I don’t think we can just call up and get Calatrava to design a cantilevered suspension bridge by the end of the month, but hey, if we are dreaming, this is the type of bridge that comes from dreams.

    Now, for me, I do like the idea of a suspension bridge. I’m sure it would cost a bundle, but I think a striking bridge is worth the investment. It could be illuminated for special occasions and serve as a landmark. Perhaps even mounting a webcam on the suspension tower to provide a view of downtown Columbia from a distance.

    If a suspension bridge is unattainable, possibly a bridge with a roof (and skylights) would be nice. It certainly would be an improvement over the steel cage. I would also like to see some sort of structure built on each end of the bridge. Something that defines the bridge edges at a distance, but provides a welcoming entrance (and exit) up close. Lastly, there must be some other material that can be used on the side of the bridge other than chain link fence. I do not know what these materials are, but the chain link fence really detracts from the fence.

    Well, that’s my dream.

  3. Sandy Cederbaum August 23, 2007 at 12:49 am #

    The east/west connector bridge over Route 29 and proposed plans for the bridge and the parkland that leads to the bridge from Stevens Forest Road is addressed in the Master Plan for the Oakland Mills village center and surrounding properties. The master plan is a component of the Oakland Mills Revitalization Initiative. While the plan outlines some visions for the path there is such potential for the path and property that is has not even be addressed.

    Oakland Mills activists, staff and residents know that the bridge over 29 is one of Columbia’s most important assets. It is the only walking path that links the east and west sides Columbia. The entire Master Plan can be viewed at http://oaklandmills.columbiavillages.org/OMCA_Board_News.htm

    The OM Board has requested that CA include funds in the CA FY09/FY10 budget for maintenance of the pathway and surrounding property . Our request includes the need for signage at each end of the path…for starters. We welcome and encourage you to support us as we address this issue. The first CA budget hearing before CA’s Planning & Strategy committee will be held at CA headquarters on Mon. Sept. 10 at 7:00 p.m The East/West Path is a true gem that is in dire need of attention. Maintenance and upkeep of the path is a joint responsibility between HC Parks & Rec and The Columbia Association.

  4. Dave Bittner August 24, 2007 at 8:12 pm #

    When my our offices were in Oakland Mills we used to use that bridge regularly to walk over to the Lakefront to get some fresh air and unwind.
    First of all, I’ve been impressed with how good a job the powers that be have done painting over the non-stop supply of grafitti that bridge gets. It’s great that they don’t just throw in the towel and let the vandals have their way, which is what a lot of communities would do.

    I think the bridge suffers from location, being so close to those Scary Apartments that you pass coming from the Oakland Mills side. There were a handful of times when I would walk along that path in the middle of the day and not feel 100% safe, because of the questionable characters skulking about. It would certainly be helpful if CA would come down hard and enforce covenants on the apartment complex, making them repair peeling paint, rotting wood, and keeping residents from using patios as storage sheds and clotheslines. Make people realize that a certain level of civility is expected here.
    I would never walk that pathway at night.

    The chain link fence is functionally necessary to keep yahoos from tossing rocks off the bridge, killing passing motorists. We could certainly do better than chain link, but whatever replaced it would have to be tough and grafitti resistant.

    I’ve pondered the idea of having a mural contest, getting school kids or local artists to paint the interior surfaces of the bridge. Someting much more visually appealing, and less attractive to the vandals than the empty, plain painted slabs of concrete. It would also get the community invested in the bridge, give them more ownership if art from all of the villages was represented.

    I doubt it’s realistic, financially, to expect the community to tear down a perfectly functional bridge, but it seems like some sort of retrofitting of the chain link could be possible.

    Here’s a really nice looking pedestrian bridge –


    It’s over water, so it doesn’t need to be enclosed to protect the road traffic underneath.

  5. Candace Dodson Reed August 27, 2007 at 2:56 pm #

    I am a firm believer of the concept of “buy in”. In my opinion, if you get the grafitti artists(because they are artists) to design something artsy on the bridge and get CA to properly light it (almost display it), we could just possibly see a decrease in the vandalism and the use of the bridge as…well a bridge and a canvas for the artists. I know this is “out of the box” but I have heard that it has worked in other cities and OM is exploring the idea of being an artsy community. Why not?

  6. Karen Gray August 27, 2007 at 6:21 pm #

    It’s great to see people focusing on this bridge. The enhancement of this connection between Town Center and Oakland Mills is a major focus of the Oakland Mills Village Center Master Plan.

    I love B.Santos’ ideas. The bridge really should take on more significance as a visual marker of Columbia on Route 29. Look at the attractive bridge at the intersection of 198 and 29 near Maple Lawn. What does this say about Columbia? Or more importantly, what COULD it say about Columbia?

    This bridge and the pathway connecting it to OM village center present a wonderful opportunity to really celebrate the connection between east and west Columbia. I would love to see a greenway that would extend from the Town Center area on the lakefront to Blandair Park. This distance is only about 1 mile and would pass right along the Oakland Mills Village Center. Check out page 8 of the OM Master Plan to see the tremendous possibilities.


    The path is already there, although it does need considerable regrading, widening, landscaping, lighting, and markers to make it easily accessible for bikers, stollers, and wheelchairs.

    Another idea is to put a dog park along the path. It seems like it would be an ideal location, close to both OM and Town Center. People walking dogs would add to the vibrancy and the feeling of safety along the path. I think a location could be found that would be close enough for lots of people to access it without being so close to residences as to be an issue.

    The OM Master Plan also addresses some of the signage issues Jessie has so visually pointed out.

  7. Karen Gray August 27, 2007 at 6:26 pm #

    Oops, forgot to add that I love Candace’s idea also.

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