Take a walk along the Little Patuxent River just south of Lake Kittamaqundi and you are bound to notice a few things. The banks of the river have been re-enforced in a number of places, protection from runoff and erosion. There are many newly planted trees shielded from deer with nibble-proof collars that run from the ground up, and, if you have a keen eye for it, you will realize many of the region’s invasive species have been removed from the landscape, giving the natural flora and fauna a chance to rejuvenate. Walk across old South Entrance Road and continue along the river and you’ll see even more. A tributary that runs down from Merriweather Post Pavilion has undergone extensive work and is beginning to look healthy again. The future of Downtown Columbia is right in front of your eyes and it is gorgeous and green.
The effort is that of a company called Biohabitats. They are working on behalf of the master developer of downtown, The Howard Hughes Corporation. Biohabitats is a company that specializes in conservation planning, ecological restoration, and regenerative design. In fact, they are actually an integral part of the design team for Downtown Columbia, guiding America’s now nearly fifty-year-old ‘New City’ forward with a proper sustainability plan and environmental restoration goals each step of the way. It’s work they are proud of and particularly suited to implement:
One such goal was to restore 5,000 feet of a degraded tributary to the Little Patuxent River. The stream had suffered from years of conveying uncontrolled stormwater runoff from a sea of impervious area throughout the watershed. Working closely with The Howard Hughes Corporation, a plan was crafted to restore ecological function, stability and resilience of the tributary. With 1,000 linear feet of stream now restored, work on designing the area surrounding the stream so that the channels and adjacent floodplain act in concert to mitigate storm flows, limit erosion, restore wetlands and improve both water quality and habitat is ongoing. The restored stream corridor will improve life for Columbia residents and visitors by creating quiet, natural open space for passive recreation. It will also create necessary habitat for fish and wildlife in an ever urbanizing landscape between Washington, DC, and Baltimore.
James Rouse nurtured Columbia as a ‘garden for growing people’. Now, the Downtown Columbia Plan sets out to ensure the garden itself is cared for in a sustainable manner as the 30-year implementation for developing downtown unfolds.