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Archives for July 12, 2016

Hospital’s healing garden is refuge from illness, anxiety

By Nicole Brodeur, The Seattle Times (TNS)

SEATTLE — Long before he became a professor of landscape architecture and a designer of healing gardens around the world, Daniel Winterbottom had a seed planted in his very own heart.

It came from his mother, Miriam, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 30 years ago.

The hospital environment where she received treatment was “humiliating and degrading,” Winterbottom said recently. The only public meeting place was a room at the end of the hall. Sticky vinyl chairs. Fluorescent lighting.

So his mother found solace in seeing a lone white pine tree outside the window of her hospital room.

“One tree gave her a way to focus away from the chemo, the nausea,” Winterbottom said.

It was also, he would later learn, a “soft fascination” — an escape from the difficult thoughts around medical decisions, wills and all the worries that a prolonged hospital stay can ignite.

“You freak out, you panic,” said Winterbottom, 60. “The human capacity to deal with these issues is limited. And nature revitalizes you.”

With that — and his mother — in mind, Winterbottom and a group of his University of Washington students transformed a space of concrete and crushed rock at the Veterans Affairs hospital on Seattle’s Beacon Hill into a lush, light-filled sanctuary called a healing garden.

The design includes a lot of herbs, which not only have a scent, but are tactile, Winterbottom said. There are beds of native plants, a fountain with the soothing sound of water, and vines where birds can find refuge. And there are mahogany benches, where family members can sit out long medical appointments.

“It all makes you feel part of a system larger than yourself,” he said.

Doorways, paths and tables accommodate wheelchairs and gurneys. Chairs tilt back “so your mind can escape,” Winterbottom said.

“In a hospital, there is not a lot of beauty,” he said. “There’s anxiety and exhaustion. You don’t come here unless you need critical care.”

His firm, Winterbottom Designs, has installed healing gardens in New York City, Mexico, Guatemala, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.

And his book, “Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces,” includes chapters on gardens designed around movement, learning and sensory enhancement. There are gardens for the homeless, immigrants, obese children and those with cancer.

Healing gardens belong in places “where people are reaching their breaking point,” Winterbottom said.

Prisons. Psychiatric facilities. Juvenile-detention facilities. Refugee camps. And VA hospitals, where the echoes of war rattle louder and longer when there’s nothing to soften the sound.

“It really helps recovery, especially with combat veterans,” said Jeremy Watson, an affiliate assistant professor in Winterbottom’s department who helped with the design.

Watson’s contribution was critical, for he has seen things. He did two tours in Vietnam as a combat medic and receives treatment at the VA for PTSD.

“There’s no other respite from the sterility of the wards and the hospital itself,” Watson said, seated on one of the garden’s mahogany benches. “Until now, the closest green was at the Jefferson Golf Course next door. If you could make it that far.” (There is also a healing garden at the adjacent Fisher House, located on the VA campus.)

Many combat veterans relate to nature and animals better than to other human beings, Winterbottom said.

He remembered neighbors in his native New Jersey who returned from the Vietnam War, then moved to faraway places like Idaho and Alaska.

“They wanted to be with nature and wildlife,” he said.

Meanwhile, the hospitals where veterans are treated are becoming increasingly dense and urbanized.

So there is more and more interest in healing gardens to settle veterans’ minds. And research proves gardens help reduce cortisol levels and aggressive behavior, and increase empathy and endorphins.

Ah, but this being a government facility, the VA project involved years of red tape and approvals before anything could be done. Then once construction started, patients, visitors and staff lined up along the windows to watch.

(The Veterans and Friends of Puget Sound helped raise $85,000 to build it.)

When the garden was officially opened last month, the crowd spilled down the halls. It was clear this would help people.

There were plenty of speeches and thanks. People waited patiently while the 27 UW students who put in 5,000 hours of construction received certificates and had their photo taken.

Then Winterbottom stood up and read a letter from an unnamed combat medic to his father, detailing the ravages of war. The professor choked back tears to read aloud the ending: “I love you, my father.”

“That was one of so many” veterans’ letters Winterbottom has seen, he said.

“For them, we hope the garden will provide a place of peace and restoration. That this will be a sanctuary in times of great stress, uncertainty and loss.”

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Innovative Garden Design and Landscape Design Services by Fox Mowing


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Ensley: Aw, Rick, why did you give them ammo?

You screwed us, Rick.

You screwed all of us who believe the Budget Hawks are crazy and city government spending is effective and necessary. Just as city commissioners prepare to finalize next year’s budget, you, City Manager Rick Fernandez, passed out five-figure annual raises to a dozen upper level city officials.

I don’t doubt the officials deserve raises. I don’t doubt Tallahassee salaries for their positions are below the national average. I don’t have a problem with top officials getting raises larger than the two percent going to the 2,800 rank-and-file city employees.

But now wasn’t the time for such raises. Have you become tone deaf like that other Rick, Gov. Rick Scott?

You remember the meeting of Budget Hawks on June 20? More than a hundred anti-taxers filled the city commission chamber to complain about city government spending. They complained about a 13 percent rise in city property taxes. They complained about business taxes. They want lower fire services taxes and cutbacks in city spending. They were incensed city workers got a 2 percent raise – and now they are apoplectic about this average 19 percent raise you passed out to members of what amounts to your cabinet.

On Wednesday, the city is holding its final budget workshop. The Budget Hawks will be there again to screech. Certainly, you can argue the Budget Hawks represent others in the community. The 100 or so at the June 20 meeting could represent 10 times that number. Heck, maybe they represent 100 times their number; maybe tens of thousands of people in Leon County share their sentiments.

People who believe most government spending is excessive. People who believe tax money should not be spent on anything except the absolute basics. People who kick and scream at every proposed tax increase.

But in a community of nearly 300,000, one can also argue the majority of us do not feel the way they do. That the majority of us support government spending on a wide range of services and amenities. That the majority of us understand it takes taxes to pay for those services and amenities. That the majority of us have been satisfied – even sometimes delighted – by the energy, innovation and effectiveness of local government spending.

But now, Rick, you’ve undercut that majority. You’ve knocked us off the moral high ground. You’ve raised doubts whether our public officials are operating with the best of intentions for the community good. You’ve given the Budget Hawks ammunition in their cries of corruption and excessive spending by local government.

Even if we are convinced it’s not true 99 percent of the time, this 1 percent example of big raises for insiders looks bad. Surely, the raises could have been implemented incrementally, over a few years.

I never understand how Budget Hawks or conservatives or whatever you call them believe taxes should go down – as our population grows bigger. More people require more roads, more street signs, more trash service, more sewage and water lines, more programs for more people. There have to be occasional tax increases.

I never understand how conservatives don’t think we need government spending on projects – roads, sidewalks, parks, art, landscaping, regulatory agencies, environmental safeguards, etc. – the private sector would not create.

I never understand how conservatives don’t understand government spending grows because a vibrant community embraces new ideas. The recent death of former City Commissioner Steve Meisburg reminded us the Junkyard Dogs – an early version of the Budget Hawks – fought tooth and nail against the city spending money to stage the annual Winter Festival. We were reminded people like them opposed Blair Stone Road extension, the Gaines Street and FAMU Way makeovers and Cascades Park. Who could argue now we are not a better, more attractive community because of all those things?

Conservatives seem to think government officials take tax money out back behind City Hall and burn it. They scream about “wasted spending.”

But the truth is every dollar spent by government – at any level – is spent on its citizens. Every dollar goes back into the economy for services, amenities, salaries and new jobs. There are no wasted dollars. There may be dollars spent on people besides you or me. But they benefit someone in the community – which in turn benefits us all.

It’s that understanding that lets the majority of us in Tallahassee shrug off criticism by Budget Hawks. It’s that understanding that allows us to defend city spending – even $7 million bridges – because we’re confident public officials are operating in our best interests. It’s that understanding that allows us to shake our heads in amusement at cries that public officials use tax money to pad their own pockets.

Then, Rick, you pass out $50,000 raises – and make them retroactive to the start of 2016! Whee, a dozen people win the lottery while the rest of us stand around dumbfounded.

Rick, you’ve made the majority citizens of Tallahassee look naïve. You’re made us question our trust in city officials. You’ve forced us to sit mute and embarrassed while Budget Hawks cry with apparent justification about excessive, wasteful spending.

You’ve spent too long as a public servant – a heretofore always admirable and responsible public servant – not to see the raises look bad.

Do what you have to do. But I don’t think this is the Tallahassee we want to be.

Gerald Ensley is a retired Tallahassee Democrat columnist, who can be contacted at

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Art City Asks: Nicolas Lampert

Mary Louise Schumacher

Art City

An online journal about visual art, the urban landscape and design. Mary Louise Schumacher, the Journal Sentinel’s art and architecture critic, leads the discussion and a community of writers contribute to the dialogue.

By Shelleen Greene Art City Contributor

Artists are increasingly addressing issues of police violence, race, climate change and immigration, among other political concerns. With that in mind, we are planning to look at the intersection of art and politics in some of our upcoming Art City Asks interviews. We hope this will serve as a field study of sorts, exploring the ideas and activities of artists who may or may not see themselves as political but who are worth considering in that context.

It is apt that we begin with interdisciplinary artist Nicolas Lampert, a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As an artist, Lampert is dedicated to social justice in general and the issue of climate change in particular. He is author of “A People’s Art History of the United States” (The New Press, 2013), which documents the history of activist art in the U.S.

Lampert is a founding member of JustSeeds artists’ cooperative, a collective of 30 printmakers dedicated to “social, political, and environmental engagement,” and a member of Climate Prints, a collective of artists-activists who create graphics for climate change movements. He has also collaborated with, a grassroots organization committed to reducing carbon emissions around the world. In December 2015, he was one of 20 artists selected to join climate change activists at the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference, where he produced “get out the word” posters for the demonstrations that took place.

Lampert is committed to community-engaged art in Milwaukee. As a Mary L. Nohl Fellow in 2011, he worked with artist and activist Paul Kjelland and members of the Milwaukee Commandos, the youth arm of the Milwaukee NAACP, to create an exhibition on Civil Rights activism in Milwaukee during the late 1960s. Several of the images created for that project became large-scale murals at Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Place park in the Harambee neighborhood just last year.

Lampert spoke to Art City contributor Shelleen Greene about what movements have inspired him, his motivations, inspirations and early political formation.

Shelleen Greene: What was your first real political experience?

Nicolas Lampert: My first real political experience was moving to the Bay Area (in the mid-1990s) and a month later marching across the Bay Bridge that was shut down during a demonstration with Angela Davis leading it. There was no going back after that. Moving to the Bay Area changed everything because there was so much political engagement. That really inspired me and informed me about so many movements and got me thinking how I could support those movements with art.

SG. Do you identify as more as an artist or activist?

NL: I think they are intertwined. I’m primarily first an artist because I think my gift to movements is through visual culture and supporting movements through the arts. But I think my artistic practice is nearly 100% connected to activist movements, so it’s intertwined.

SG: What is your hoped for audience?

NL: A large audience. I think in the last twenty years I’ve been really critiquing the art audience. First and foremost, the art audience is too limited, and the venues in which artists show their works, primarily galleries or even museums, simply don’t reach enough people. So my interest in doing this kind of work is to reach as many people as possible and to really harness the media as well.

SG. What motivates you?

NL:  Social justice is the underlying theme of what motivates me. I would say climate change is the driving force of my work and deciphering how art can make the biggest difference in that movement.

SG. What criticism or push back has been most meaningful to you?

NL: I think the type of criticism that’s most valuable to me is the criticism from my direct peers, from those I collaborate with the most.

SG. Who do you think is making relevant political art today?

NL: I think artists are making a tremendous difference, it just depends on what their tactics are, what structures they are working with, and who they’re reaching. I think social media has given us an unbelievable ability to connect with people all over the world, to get our messages out. I think in a city like Milwaukee, where community art thrives, where collaborating with many groups, and putting and situating your art in all corners of the city is really relevant.

[In a] city like Milwaukee I’m inspired by groups like Stitch, which has a mission to bring together the Latino and African American communities. I’m inspired by the YES group of Voces de la Frontera, the Youth Empowered by the Struggle, who use activist art almost second to none. These are two examples of groups that are doing the most inspiring projects in the city, but they may not be known in the gallery context, and I don’t think that’s a concern. I think their concerns are different, their concerns are about battling for social justice.

SG: What gives your work authenticity?

NL: The authenticity is really bringing in collaborative partners and really listening to the community. [In] the work that I do with ReciproCity, our signature project right now is the Martin Luther King Peace Place, in which we turned three vacant lots into community parks.

Authenticity to me in that project is that we are able to accomplish this and build phase one of the park, which we worked through the Home GR/OWN initiative, which is an amazing part of the city government that is bringing green spaces and pop up parks to the city. We worked with Blue Skies Landscaping crew, which is an African American run landscaping crew through the Walnut Way Conservation Corp., and through a grant they did a beautiful landscaping job. We worked through the Milwaukee Arts Board. Paul Kjelland and I installed two billboard-style murals about the history of the Milwaukee Commandos, and authenticity was a large community gathering and celebration where the directors of the HeartLove Place said we did a good job.

Phase two is going to include garden beds, a stage, an outdoor classroom. HeartLove Place has a culinary institute program, where the fruits and vegetables grown at the park will be part of the culinary institute. They have a training program for community members, including some who have recently come out of incarceration. We can utilize this park for the community but also as part of HeartLove’s mission. Authenticity is really collaborating with hundreds of people and really putting your own needs and your own name to the side.

SG: What artists or movements have inspired you?

NL: So many movements have inspired me. Part of my practice is researching and writing about movements. One movement that inspires me to no end is the AIDS activism of the late 1980s and early 1990s, where ACT UP in New York City, which was almost second to none in harnessing the power of art. Grand Fury was the design collective that created a lot of the iconic images and slogans that made a profound difference in changing the cultural narrative of the AIDS crisis. It took six years for the Reagan administration to even mention the term “AIDS” in a policy speech. The ACT UP movement was confronting the failure of the government to protect those with AIDS. And they were going after the FDA to speed up the approval process for drugs. Art and graphics played a key role in that movement.

I’m inspired by the recent victories of Liberate Tate! in the UK which after years of agitation, got British Petroleum to sever their ties with the Tate museum. That’s a major success. What Liberate Tate! did was heroic. That should be a model to all of us, when we organize and fight back, the possibility of winning these impossible struggles really exists.

SG: Do you ever feel that your expression is constrained in any way by institutions or institutional policies?

NL: I don’t know if constrained is the right word because all this work is collaborative. I think traditionally in the United States, you’re trained as an individual artist, where you are an island into yourself. You’re propped up to sink or swim in the market, based on whether your work is deemed acceptable. In working within institutions and groups, it’s the opposite, it’s about collaboration. What I do is about…working in collectives and of course there’s going to be frustrations. So it’s important that everyone really thinks about what the health of a cooperative is or, when you’re working in an institution, what’s the health of a department? What are the larger overarching goals?

SG: What do you hope will be the impact of your artwork?

NL: My hope with my work is to help save the planet. My goals with my art today is to work with groups that I admire. I hope that my work is useful in these movements and is part of these movements, not above and beyond. I hope that as an artist I can influence others to see that culture truly matters and that these movements aren’t going to succeed without culture and they aren’t going to succeed without art. I also hope that the work that I’m doing locally makes a difference in the community, and that it works in collaboration with the community and its success is bringing together a diverse constituency. The more people that see art in, say, the Martin Luther King Jr Peace Place, the better. If this project evolves and grows and goes in unexpected ways, then that means it struck a cord and that it matters and it resonates with people.

SG: You said your early goal was to get into the Museum of Modern Art and you did. How did you get in?

NL: I got my work in the MoMA because a collage series I got known for, the machine-animal collages, had some traction and it was shown as large scale prints at the Mass MoCA in an exhibition called “Becoming Animal” that was a show with artists like Mark Dion, Natalie Jeremijenko. The work was in the Mass MoCA for eight plus months [and] seen by a lot of people. Curator Gretchen Wagner from the MoMA chose two artists who were not represented by galleries to be in the MoMA print collection: she chose myself and [the street artist] Swoon.

But truth be told, I’ve gotten ten times more satisfaction and pride out of the work that I’ve done with ReciproCity. Building and helping create a community park, to me is much more significant at this stage of my life than any individual art show.

Shelleen Greene, a scholar of visual culture, an associate professor in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an Art City contributor.

“Art City Asks” are brief QAs with intriguing people who are part of or connected to Milwaukee’s creative community. We’ve done recent interviews with Fo Wilson, Maggie Sasso, Blyth Renate Meier, Robin Jebavy and Jon Mueller. The interviews are conducted via in-person interview, video chat, email or whatever other format we may dream up. Some of the questions we use are inspired by the Frieze Questionnaire. If you would like to recommend someone for us to interview in an upcoming “Art City Asks,” please leave a comment below.

Mary Louise Schumacher Archive

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Unique Ways to Exercise on Cape Cod

If there is one place where having a beach body is a plus, it’s the beach capitol of Massachusetts.

Whatever your body type, exercise is good for your health and can actually be fun here on the Cape.

The trick is to take advantage of the beautiful scenery and natural resources available throughout the region. These ideas will make you want to forget you ever signed up for a gym membership.

We broke them up into different areas of the body so you can decide what needs working out and what needs a rest day. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and a protein shake!


Let’s start off with some activities which will keep you in good shape overall. It is important get some cardio in at least three days a week if your goal is to maintain your current figure, depending on your current fitness level. Always consult a physician before attempting any routine!

  • Bike Paths – There are excellent bike paths throughout the Cape, from the Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth to the Cape Cod Rail Trail in South Dennis. For a basic cardio exercise you can keep up with, try any path that is relatively flat and paved.
  • Hiking – If you hike them at a brisk pace, there are plenty of hiking spots on the Cape which will be both challenging and visually rewarding.
  • Climb the Towers – There are two towers – Scargo in Dennis and the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown – which offer both amazing views and a challenging climb. Your heart will be pumping, both from exercise and the excitement of seeing things from up high!
  • Swimming – A simple solution to your “can’t get off the couch” woes – but one that is easy to overlook! Be it at the beach or in a public pool, this is a supremely cost-efficient means of keeping in shape, doggy paddle, breast stroke or mixed.
  • Tennis – There are many tennis courts open for public use here. Even if you’re not great at the sport, running around the court will surely provide a joint-friendly workout.
  • Roller Derby – This one’s for the brave. The local team is picking up new players each year – but are you woman enough to try it?


Never skip leg day! Here are some activities to tone those tree trunks, from the calves all the way up to the gluteus maximus.

  • Offroad Biking – While biking is excellent for cardio in general, if you really want to work those legs you’ll have to try mountain biking. And although there are no true mountains on Cape Cod, you’ll find plenty of challenging off road paths. Start off at the Badlands Trails in Yarmouth, or Beebe Woods in Falmouth.
  • Rollerblading – You’ll really feel it in your calves after strapping on some skates and pushing yourself through a loop by the canal. The canal trail is 14 miles of scenic bliss, so no excuses!
  • Ice Skating – Community centers throughout the Cape often have a four-season rink. What better way to cool down while working out, simultaneously?
  • Sand Sprinting – Next time you’re at the beach, try sprinting a few times from your beach towel to the shoreline and back again. The sand provides resistance training for your calves and hamstrings. Paired with some swimming, you’ll have earned an ice cream
  • Go Trampolining – Although this option has a bit more inherent kitsch, it can double as an excellent leg exercise AND a place to bring the kids. Trampoline parks are especially popular in Yarmouth.


Seeking to buff up those biceps? Have a pair of forgotten forearms? Try these quintessentially Cape Cod activities which are too much fun to be labeled “exercise.”

  • Kayaking, Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) Canoeing – A trinity of paddle sports awaits you on the Cape. Whether you rent the boats or bring your own, it’ll still be cheaper than a gym membership. Try the Bass River in Yarmouth/Dennis for kayaking, Town Neck Beach in Sandwich for SUP and Orleans’ ponds and rivers for canoes.
  • Water Skiing – With the rise of paddlesports, it seems sports involving a powerboat have fallen by the wayside. But if you really want to feel the burn in your arms, you have to try water skiing.
  • Curling – This one may come as a bit of a surprise, but the Cape is home to an excellent curling team in Falmouth. They’re always looking for more players, so give it a try if you’re fond of bocce or shuffleboard!
  • Bowling – This one only counts if you’re using 10-pin, since candlepin bowling is just a little too lightweight.


Because those pecs aren’t going to work themselves!

  • Kiteboarding – As you can see in this video, kiteboarding the shorelines of Cape Cod is an exhilarating way to take advantage of the wind and waves along the Outer Cape and ocean-facing beaches. The upward pulling motion will put your chest strength to the test!
  • Volleyball – Reach up high for the spike! You’re working out those pecs and dominating the sand while you’re at it.
  • Hedge Trimming – So you’ve got some chores to do – remember to do it the old fashioned way with a pair of handheld clippers. Keep them perpendicular to your body at chest height for a workout you’ll not soon forget!


If you’re not too tired yet, try out these activities to get that back in shape.

  • Windsurfing – This windsurfer knows what’s up. He didn’t let the cold water stop him from getting in an excellent back workout. Holding on to and steering the bar on a windsurfing rig is excellent back training.
  • Yardwork, with a Wheelbarrow – Never underestimate the power of landscaping. Need a new layer of mulch to beautify your bushes and trees? Lift up that wheelbarrow and get to work. But remember, lift with the knees and use a back-brace.

If you’re still in need of a workout, there’s a popular organization called the Cape Adult Sports League, which pits residents against each other in friendly match-ups. They have a rotating schedule of sports and games, everything from floor hockey to kickball.

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One year later: The silver lining in the supercell

The National Weather Service in Duluth reported while the bulk of the winds were in the 70-80 mph range, there were likely pockets of 100 mph winds.

Thousands of residents in the path of the storm—which blasted through southern portions of Cass and Crow Wing counties—were without power for as long as a week. Some of the heaviest damage occurred in the Gull, North Long and Round lakes areas. Notably, not a single injury was reported as a result of the severe supercell thunderstorm that produced the damaging winds, but residents and businesses were left with what some described as a war zone.

One year later, the memories of that night and the days that followed remain fresh, although a silver lining from the storm clouds emerged for many. Resorts damaged by the supercell reported business is booming this summer and cleanup and repair efforts are complete. Storm response areas in need of improvement were recognized and offered businesses the opportunity for better preparation should another massive severe storm roll through.

Residents have patched roofs, rebuilt garages and are learning to live without trees that once were a grand presence in their yards. Sunlight streams into areas where it was once unable to penetrate, allowing new life to grow.

‘Nature will rebound’

Judy DuBois woke up Monday morning to a reminder of last year’s storm.

In her yard on Noka Trail, situated between Round and North Long lakes, the top of a basswood tree broke off in the strong winds accompanying a severe thunderstorm early Monday morning. The basswood was part of a stand of four trees, three of which survived last year’s storm. The fourth was the tree that punctured holes in the roof above their guest room last July.

“It was just to kind of remind us that hey, remember, it was a year ago,” DuBois said.

DuBois first spoke with the Dispatch the morning after the supercell storm, as she and her husband were barely able to see the driveway at their home of more than 40 years. She said in the days that followed, they received help from neighbors and volunteers to clear the 15 or so trees uprooted or snapped in their yard.

“It could have been more,” she said. “It was hard sometimes to know where one tree ended.”

Without power for a week, the Duboises received relief from the American Red Cross relief center at Timberwood Church south of Nisswa. Judy DuBois said they went to the center daily to retrieve water and meals.

“We were very appreciative of the relief center,” she said. “I guess I never pictured myself in that situation.”

The couple has since reconstructed their garage and the roof on their home, also making most of the necessary repairs to a pontoon boat. The downed trees are the last reminders of the storm.

“Some of that wood is still laying in our back lot,” DuBois said. “For us, it was difficult. We couldn’t afford to have everything done, so my husband did a lot of it himself. … We’re still asking people if they need any firewood for anything.”

The loss of trees on their property changed how it looked, but DuBois noticed this spring it allowed wildflowers—the Virginia waterleaf—to cover the landscape with splashes of purple.

“It was just wonderful to see it at the beginning of June, almost all over our backlot and at the backlots of most of our neighbors,” she said. “It just encourages you, because nature will rebound.”

In the days after the storm Cinosam area resident Wadeen Baribeau thought the residential area with its storied tall trees would never be the same. A year later she was looking for hinges to rehang doors on a shed, one of the last things to do in repairs.

Baribeau said it took a year to to get everything settled with the insurance company. Her roof was replaced and downed trees cleaned up along with other repair work. Baribeau said the recovery process continued this summer and some are still working on it.

“There are still yards and yards that are just not cleaned up,” Baribeau said. “There is still wood in people’s yards. The aftermath is still there for some people.”

It can still be difficult and disconcerting, especially at dusk and later, to find the right street for a turn because of the changed landscape. But, Baribeau said, it is getting better.

Recently, the neighborhood came together for the Fourth of July. Baribeau said people talked about the positives in the storm’s aftermath. They had more light, which meant they could plant flowers and vegetable gardens. They appreciated the wildflowers that came on their own. They also had more space to add porches or gazebos. Baribeau said people noted they liked being able to sit out in their yards and see their neighbors.

“I would say it’s taken almost this whole year to become more settled and acclimated,” Baribeau said. “Everybody was so anxious for a long time when you go through that much devastation.”

The camaraderie established in the storm cleanup continued, Baribeau said. She noted people greet each other more, know each other better and are even more willing to help each other out.

“That has lingered,” Baribeau said.

On the Pine Beach Peninsula, Ginger Markham said people are still recovering and replanting trees. A retired nurse, Markham inherited the home with a Gull Lake view from her parents. In the months following the storm, she worried she wouldn’t be able to keep her home.

“I just did get my new screens on the porch not too long ago, there is still painting to be done and staining inside where the tree went through,” Markham said. “Things are better.”

Markham was forced to dip into her retirement to help pay for repairs and said she could add a renter in the future if she needed revenue. She and the other residents on the peninsula also divided costs to clean up downed trees on the undeveloped park land. There was a lot of concern for wildfires, but those fears were not realized this spring.

“There were lots of bonfires,” Markham said of cleanup efforts. “We lost so many trees in there so it’s kind of bald. … It will never look the same. The whole peninsula will never be the same.” But, she said, everybody hung together.

“Everybody seems to be coping,” Markham said.

Resorts recover, thrive

Gull Lake resorts were forced to close for several days to several weeks following the July 12 storm, with impacts ranging from downed trees to destroyed buildings.

One of the hardest hit was Madden’s on Gull Lake, operators of which were forced to rebuild living quarters on the property after the roofs were torn off. The new rooms were opened in May and Kathy Reichenbach, marketing director, said the response from vacationers has been great.

“There is a lot of interest in the new rooms,” she said. “They turned out just beautifully.”

On Sunday, Madden’s hosted a recognition party for those guests who were at the resort a year ago during the storm, since many return for the same weekend each year.

“We showed pictures of the storm damage and they told some stories,” Reichenbach said. “They were so excited to see what has happened in the last year and just amazed at how different it looked.”

Nancy Krasean, marketing manager for Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake, said the summer has so far been a busy one.

“It started early and continues, and we’re extremely busy,” she said. “People that had to leave last year or didn’t get to come in because we were closed for two weeks were thrilled.”

Krasean said the resort replaced 30 roofs and did a lot of landscaping, spending the winter getting rid of piles of tree debris that were moved from the roads and golf courses to allow the resort to function.

“The golf courses are in great shape,” she said. “Most people, if anything, probably think they’re a little easier to play because there aren’t as many trees in the way.”

Krasean said they have a couple of new generators they hope could do the job in a future storm, and they learned they needed to take customer service off the property in the event of a loss of phone and internet service.

“We were trying to take phone calls with one little cellphone at the front desk,” Krasean said, but with the sheer number of calls it was difficult to keep up.

Mark Ronnei, general manager of Grand View Lodge, said he had a minor flashback Monday morning when the severe thunderstorm warning alert on his phone woke him up.

“I put my chainsaw in my truck and drove to work at 2:30 in the morning,” Ronnei said. “It’s kind of a mild form of post-traumatic stress. I don’t look at storms the way I did before.”

Ronnei said employees put in 4,500 hours of work in the week following the storm and the resort was back up and running a week later. Work on the last roof in need of replacement was completed the beginning of June, only to be damaged again by the large hail generated by a severe storm later in the month.

Ronnei said most of the tree and debris cleanup was completed by late October, and the golf courses—and the view of the lake from the lodge—were actually improved by tree loss.

“It’s not the kind of pruning I would like to do, but you’ve got to kind of go with it,” Ronnei said.

This year, the resort’s 100th anniversary, is expected to be its best year ever in terms of revenue, he said, and it’s a welcome sequel to “the storm of the century” last summer.

“I was reflecting on the storm earlier today,” Ronnei said. “It was really amazing. Our employees putting in almost 5,000 hours in one week of cleanup was an amazing thing to see and to go through, and it made me thankful all over again for the tremendous area we live in.”

‘Remarkable job’ at relief efforts

Terry Sluss was the operations manager for the American Red Cross efforts to aid residents affected by the storm. He and the team spent nine days in the hot asphalt parking lot of Timberwood Church. The Red Cross also drove out into the storm area, handing out ice and water to people without power, working in the July heat to clear trees. He remembered that one resident said they wanted to help others the same way someday.

The storm taught the Red Cross workers—some of whom were rookies—just how important their work was, he said.

“I think it taught a lot of people that had never responded on a larger scale operation that people really, really depend on disaster operations when something strikes,” he said. “Their first time out, they did a remarkable job.”

The Red Cross and others, including The Salvation Army, an influx of volunteers from across the state and nearby states, along with Bridges of Hope and emergency management, all were part of the assistance, as well as Lutheran Social Services, TCC and others that were part of the Long Term Recovery group.

Sluss also remembers the support demonstrated for the area, which included not just aid workers from across the country but visits from Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and other leaders.

Since the storm, the Minnesota regional response team for the Red Cross has changed its tactics on providing financial relief in that disaster-affected clients now have more control over where the money goes, such as how much they want to spend on a hotel or food.

Sluss led government operations for the Red Cross response to Hurricane Sandy and also assisted with wildfires in Colorado. With the July 12 storm, though, the people his team were handing water bottles to were faces he recognized.

“People I knew were coming in daily,” he said. “It was a whole lot different than going to some place where I didn’t know anybody, but at the same time, the level of service was exactly the same. Our mission is to care for anybody in crisis, and provide the services that they need.”

Impact of tree loss felt

The storm blew down some 1,400 acres of trees in the Pillsbury State Forest west of East Gull Lake, with the highest levels of damages in the southern end of the state-owned land. To clean up after the storm, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sold 30 timber permits to harvest 22,000 cords worth of trees that were either down completely or blown at an angle.

In total, about 1,800 acres of the park were affected by the storm, forming the majority of the entire forest, said Steve Bartz, Backus area assistant forestry supervisor for the DNR.

Bartz did not know the total revenue the DNR got for the wood, but he said the permits were sold in a “salvage timber sale,” or lower-than-average prices that encouraged loggers to complete the unusually difficult work of picking up fallen trees. But for the storm, the DNR would much rather have sold the trees to be logged conventionally, over a more gradual timeline, Bartz said.

“It wasn’t a good moneymaker for us,” he said.

While some of the lost trees stood for a hundred years, the average age of the trees blown down was somewhere in the 80-year range, and they were replaced with saplings about three years old, he said. Roughly 240,000 trees were planted this past spring.

“Basically, it’s a younger forest now,” he said.

Pillsbury State Forest in Cass County was the state’s first forest reserve. It was established in 1900 when Gov. John Pillsbury donated the land to the state. Trails in the forest were cleared of downed trees over the course of the summer.

Of the people Bartz talked to, most agreed it was “probably the biggest storm that has hit the Pillsbury since it became a state forest.”

Nearly $2 million in disaster-related expenses was submitted to the state for reimbursement between Cass and Crow Wing counties, said John Bowen, emergency management director. The majority of these expenses came from work by county employees to remove trees from the roads and right-of-way, he said. Although some was hauled away, others downed near public lands were moved into the woods and still more fell within those forests, remaining there a year later.

“There’s still a lot of downed timber,” Bowen said. “There is a greater threat for wildfires in our area for the next few years.”

Bowen said it offered a chance to educate the community on wildfire safety through the DNR’s Firewise program. The program seeks to offer information to homeowners, landscapers and others on steps to improve property resilience to wildfires. This includes the concept of creating a “defensible space” around a home.

Bowen said he believes residents in the area are more prepared for the possibility of extreme weather after experiencing that storm, and he said the best things to do remain establishing a family response plan and owning a weather radio.

Switch the lights on

The supercell thunderstorm left thousands in the Brainerd lakes area without power and many of those were in the dark for the better part of a week.

Char Kinzer, public relations manager with Crow Wing Power, said last year’s storm was definitely the largest storm she had seen in her 25 years with the cooperative. There was “devastating destruction,” she said, but it showed her how well-prepared crews were to restore power.

At 6 p.m. Monday the day following the storm, about 4,700 customers were without power. Line workers and office staff worked well together to track outages and get customers back on, Kinzer said. She summed up the week following the storm in one word.

“I think it was exhausting,” Kinzer said and laughed.

During the week, Crow Wing Power regularly updated its Facebook page and interacted with customers to inform them about outages and the progress crews were making. Kinzer said that experience was “nothing short of incredible.” It was rewarding to see people interacting with each other, she said, and the experience informed how the cooperative uses its Facebook page today.

“Our procedure on what to do on Facebook evolved because of that,” Kinzer said.

After seeing how Crow Wing Power responded following the storm, Kinzer said she is “totally proud” to work for the cooperative and for its members.

“They don’t work for the CEO, they work for the members,” Kinzer said. “Our people care about the people that we serve.”

Brainerd Public Utilities Superintendent Scott Magnuson said the storm was the second biggest he had seen. A storm in fall of 2014 was worse for the city, he said, with a lot of damage in south Brainerd. With thunderstorms pounding the area Sunday night through Monday, his fingers were crossed “that we can avoid this one coming.”

A damaging storm brings with it lots of overtime for utility workers, Magnuson said. The utility builds overtime into its budget, he said, with the idea a heavy storm might create more overtime. The week after the storm went smoothly for BPU, he said. The team in the office did a good job of fielding calls and recording outages, so crews could get out and get them fixed. The Monday morning following the storm, around 100 BPU customers were without power.

Crews worked hard and worked well together after the storm, Magnuson said. Workers were able to restore power to BPU customers and some then went and helped other utilities restore power farther north of Brainerd.

“You get to see everybody work together,” Magnuson said. “Everybody’s working together to try to get the lights back on.”


Have a plan for severe weather

A family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to think about the following situations and plan just in case.

Consider the following questions when making a plan:

• How will the household get emergency alerts and warnings?

• How will the household get to safe locations for relevant emergencies?

• How will the household get in touch if cellphone, internet or landline doesn’t work?

• How will the household let loved ones know they are safe?

• How will the household get to a meeting place after the emergency?

Here are a few easy steps to start an emergency communication plan:

• Understand how to receive emergency alerts and warnings. Make sure all household members are able to get alerts about an emergency from local officials. Learn more about alerts by visiting or check with the local emergency management agency to see what is available in the area.

• Discuss household plans for disasters that may affect the area and plan where to go. Plan together in advance so that everyone in the household understands where to go during a different type of disaster like a flood, tornado or wildfire.

• Collect contact information. Create a paper copy of the contact information for the household that includes: phone numbers (work, cell, office), email addresses, social media accounts, medical facilities, doctors, service providers and school contact information.

• Share the information. Make sure everyone carries a copy in his or her backpack, purse or wallet. Also post a copy in a central location in the home, such as a refrigerator or family bulletin board.

• Identify information and pick an emergency meeting place. Things to consider:

— Decide on safe, familiar places where the household can go for protection or to reunite.

— Make sure these locations are accessible for household members with disabilities or access and functional needs.

— If pets or service animals are part of the household, think about animal-friendly locations.

• Examples of meeting places:

— In the neighborhood: A mailbox at the end of the driveway or a neighbor’s house.

— Outside of the neighborhood: library, community center, place of worship or family friend’s home.

— Outside of the town or city: home of a relative or family friend. Make sure everyone knows the address of the meeting place and discuss ways to get there.

• Practice the plan. Have regular household meetings to review the emergency plans, communication plans and meeting place after a disaster, and then practice just like a fire drill.

Information from, an emergency preparedness website operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Article source:

Ottawa ‘a beautiful community’ to Bloom judges

Visiting Washington Square in Ottawa Monday morning were (from left) America in Bloom judge Teresa Woodard, Mayor Robert Eschbach, judge Linda Cromer, Director of Economic Development Reed Wilson and artist Susan Burton of Ottawa is Blooming.

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How the ‘garden for growing people’ got planted and grew

This is the first of a series of 12 monthly essays over the next year leading up to Columbia’s 50th birthday celebration next June. It ran first in The Business Monthly, with a circulation of 25,000 in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, and after that will be published here on and by our partner website, Baltimore Post-Examiner. The copyright is maintained by the author and may not be republished in any form without his express written consent. © 2016 Len Lazarick

By Len Lazarick

             When I tell people I’ve lived in Columbia 43 years, some say, “Oh you must be a pioneer.” But a pioneer, in old-Columbia speak, is technically someone who moved here in its first year, 1967–68. A few of those 2,200 souls are left, and all can tell you of the first store, the first school, the first this and the first that.

But this monthly series of essays leading to Columbia’s 50th birthday next June is not meant as a piece of nostalgia. Many books and hundreds of articles have focused on the first decades of Columbia, the land acquisition, the planning. These essays are about Columbia as a lived experience that brings us to the present, with a long view of how we got here and how it evolved from the plan, and in many cases was not planned at all.

This is called a “memoir” because it is neither complete nor unbiased. It is Len Lazarick’s interpretation of Columbia’s 50 years, or at least some aspects of it, fact-based as much as possible.

Len Lazarick

For most of those years I was working as a journalist here, reporting and editing for the once-great Columbia Flier, and then The Business Monthly. I covered politics, state government, business and the school board.

I love Columbia, but of course, as a critical journalist, it is a love fully conscious of the town’s flaws and quirks; I am more critical than its most ardent fans.

As its visionary developer Jim Rouse intended, Columbia has truly been for me and many others “a garden for growing people.” I arrived at age 25 and truly grew up here; I made my living here; my wife and I bought three houses, thrived here, experienced disappointments and unemployment here; we had our daughters at its new hospital and now our grandsons were born here; we worship here, shop here, play here; I made mistakes here, had successes here, made many friends and a few enemies.

Columbia is not a perfect place or even necessarily the only ideal place to grow up and raise a family. But it was for us.

The Next America

            Jim Rouse and the company that bore his name nicknamed this new town “The Next America,” a name that adorned the Exhibit Center in downtown before there really was a town.

In 1977, as Columbia celebrated its 10th birthday, I penned the lead essay in the Flier’s glossy commemorative magazine, “The People of Columbia,” full of pictures and profiles of the people who lived here.

My essay was titled “No Promised Land, No Next America: In the failure of great expectations, great promise still.” I thought, and still think, it was a balanced piece, an antidote to the hype and promotion that sometimes afflicted the early marketing. Jim Rouse didn’t agree.

“We didn’t know you felt that way,” he said to me shortly after the magazine came out. And, I was told, Howard Research and Development Corp., the arm of the Rouse Company overseeing the new town, canceled an order of 5,000 copies because of that piece.

In a way, these articles are an updating of that original essay about Columbia — the good, the bad, the mediocre and the mundane, and sometimes even the very good. Because it is appearing first in a business newspaper — one of the few locally owned publications left in Howard County — and then at, the news website about state government and politics that I founded and run, it will be heavy on those things I know best: business, politics, government, education, religion. But I will deal later in the series next year with other important topics, such as arts and sports, where I’ve been mostly a casual participant.

First Some History: The Land

            But first we need to talk about the history. Probably more than half the people reading this have little or no inkling of how Columbia came to be. They just work in its many office parks, or bought a house here or rent an apartment because it was the right location and the right price. Given the vagaries of post office ZIP codes, some people who actually live in Columbia “new town” have addresses that say Ellicott City and Clarksville. Others with a Columbia address are holes in the Swiss cheese of Columbia’s 10 villages — out-parcels, in Columbia-speak.

Columbia was first of all about the land and what to put on it — the same question faced by Howard County’s first real developer, Charles Carroll of Carrolton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, whose country estate is still owned by the family and sits in the middle of more than 1,000 acres of farmland just a few miles north of Columbia. He, his ancestors and his heirs developed what was once 13,000 acres — almost the size of Columbia — by selling parcels to people like the Clarks to build a mill in 1790 and then, over the next two centuries, selling off other pieces as farmsteads and home sites.

In 1962, 130 years after Charles Carroll died and was buried in the chapel on his estate, Howard County was still a mostly rural enclave between Baltimore and Washington. Lopped off of Anne Arundel County in 1851, the county had just 45,000 people, with a few pockets of large-lot developments along two-lane Route 29: Dunloggin, Allview Estates, Atholton.

With the suburbs of the two old cities growing, and Interstate 95 about to open on its east side (and I-70 on the north later on), Howard County was ripe for suburban sprawl.

Realizing this, a Baltimore mortgage banker named Jim Rouse decided he could build not just a better suburb, but a real city that combined both city features and suburban life.

He already was constructing a planned development on an old golf course in north Baltimore — the Village of Cross Keys — but that was a village in the midst of an old city. His company also was one of the first in the nation to develop enclosed shopping malls; one of the first was Mondawmin in the 1950s, in the heart of Baltimore.

A New Look for ’Burbs

Jim Rouse in the 1960s Courtesy by Columbia Archives

   Columbia could be a fresh departure from the suburbs that Rouse’s own mortgage company had helped foster after World War II.

The machinations Rouse went through to set his plan on course make an exciting story even 50 years later: Second-hand agents, not knowing whom they were representing, bought farm after farm for a series of dummy corporations. Speculation was wild about who was assembling all this land — ultimately 14,000 acres — and why. The secretiveness was believed necessary to keep down the price of the land. Rouse lined up the Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. to finance the project.

Almost a year after the first purchase, Rouse finally announced he was planning a new town, but that proved to be just the beginning. Then came one of the most intriguing parts of the planning process. Now that the land was owned, it had to be planned, with streets and homes and shopping and schools.

In addition to the physical plan, Rouse had a higher vision. He wanted a social plan to make the new city work for people. He gathered a group of 13 experts in nearly as many fields: government, recreation, sociology, economics, education, medicine, housing, transportation, communications and family life. All were white men except for a lone woman, an expert on women’s issues.

A work group of experts in 13 fields did the social planning for Columbia. Photo by Robert de Gast, courtesy of Columbia Archives.

Remember, this was 1963. The civil rights movement was coming to a head, and the feminist movement had barely started. In the Howard County of that time, the men worked, the women stayed at home (or worked on the farm) and the Negroes, some descended from Carroll slaves, went to segregated schools and restaurants. This conservative but Democratic county — Democrats were still the more racist party in Maryland till the late 1960s — had elected a group of conservative Republican county commissioners championing an anti-growth platform.

Those were the folks Jim Rouse had to pitch to for his idea of a “new town,” and the flexible zoning to make it feasible.

Four Goals

               As Jim Rouse often described it, Columbia had four key goals that grew out of the social planning work group, his own experience growing up in small-town Easton, and the spirit of the times. In some lists, the goals are in a different order, but this one makes the most sense.           

The People Tree

Goal No. 1: To respect the land. Rouse believed strongly that “there should be a strong infusion of nature throughout a network of towns; that people should be able to … feel the spaces of nature all as part of his everyday life.”

Goal No. 2: To provide for the growth of people. Rouse believed that “the ultimate test of civilization is whether or not it contributes to the growth — the improvement of mankind. Does it uplift, inspire, stimulate and develop the best in man? … The most successful community would be that which contributed the most by its physical form, its institutions, and its operation to the growth of people.”

This was embodied symbolically in the People Tree in Columbia’s town center, which was once the symbol for all of Columbia and still stands there today.

Goal No. 3: To build a complete city. Rouse explained it this way.

“There will be business and industry to establish a sound economic base, roughly 30,000 houses and apartments at rents and prices to match the income of all who work there. Provision has been made for schools and churches, for a library, college, hospital, concert halls, theaters, restaurants, hotels, offices and department stores. Like any real city of 100,000, Columbia will be economically diverse, polycultural, multi-faith and inter-racial.”

Howard County at the time had only a smattering of those institutions and none of those qualities. The schools were not considered top-notch, and they had just been desegregated, though the housing wasn’t; one of the newer developments even had covenants excluding Jews. While there was a long Catholic presence, with Jesuit and Redemptorist seminaries nearby, most of the churches were mainstream Protestant. (This was before the great ecumenical opening of the Catholic Church in the Second Vatican Council going on about that same time.)

Goal No. 4: To make a profit. This final explicit goal is often glossed over as secondary, but as Rouse would say, making a profit “brings discipline to all the other goals.” It was also important to him to demonstrate that good development focused on the other three goals could make money if other developers followed suit.

As lofty and attractive as these goals were, Rouse’s pitch was practical as well. Columbia would be a boon, not a burden, to the small county, which would at least triple in size if the town were built. The inevitable growth in Howard County’s future, he insisted, was better channeled into a concentrated area. The housing density in the new town and the business parks that would bloom there would gain revenue for the county, more than supporting the public services needed,  and they would prevent sprawl.

This model of downtown Columbia was shown to Howard County residents. Courtesy of Columbia Archives.

Not a burden on the county

            Columbia would have its own taxes — a lien established by covenants on every property in the new town. The lien would help pay for all the recreation and community facilities and the upkeep of the open space that would wind through all the stream valleys, with bike paths connecting every village.

In a crucial decision that later would be much debated, Columbia was not to be a separate municipality with a mayor, police, fire and public works; it would rely on the county for those services. Like all of Maryland, under state law the schools would be part of a countywide system. The roads, water and sewer would be built by the developer and then turned over to Howard County to maintain. Even its health care would be self-contained, run by a unit of Johns Hopkins medicine.

The commissioners and their constituents were skeptical but realistic. Lawyer Jim Rouse may have been a visionary capitalist, a liberal internationalist, and a social gospel Christian, but he was also an inspiring speaker and an excellent salesman. To use a word he liked to use for other people, spread out in syllables, he was “extra-ordinary.”

It did not come easy, but after months of meeting and presentations, county residents came around, and the county commissioners eventually approved the plan and the new town zoning in 1965. There followed feverish activity to build the infrastructure: lay out the roads and pave them, bulldoze the bike paths, set aside the open space, build the first buildings, construct the dams for two man-made lakes.

Then on June 21, 1967, the date now observed as Columbia’s birthday, the dam was dedicated for Wilde Lake and Columbia’s first village, named for the chairman of Connecticut General, Frazar Wilde, who enthusiastically agreed to finance Rouse’s plans. The following day “The Next America” Exhibit Center opened, and on July 1 the first residents moved in.

Jim Rouse, center, discusses plans for Columbia with lead designer Mort Hoppenfeld, right, and top manager Bill Finley. Photo by Robert de Gast, courtesy of Columbia Archives.

True Believers in the Goals

            These first residents and many of those arriving in the next decade would be enthusiastic believers in Rouse’s goals — the first three, at least. It was the right time in the nation’s history to act on interracial tolerance and interfaith cooperation; and three years later, in 1970, the establishment of Earth Day recognized the growing environmental movement.

Rouse’s commitment to integrated housing may seem routine now, but in 1960s Maryland it was revolutionary.

The social goals attracted people from all over the country, especially those of a liberal bent. The Johns Hopkins commitment to a new style of health care — a health maintenance organization — came as the Medicare and Medicaid programs had just passed Congress, and Medicare was being implemented just up the road at Social Security headquarters in Woodlawn, where many of the new residents worked, including me for a year.

Some others of the new, highly educated residents worked at a then-little-known or -understood federal agency just 10 miles away at Fort Meade — the National Security Agency. The super-clandestine communications intelligence agency at that time had no sign to announce its presence. No Such Agency, some would say.

Rouse basked in the media adulation, and the praise was almost universal. There was substantial criticism of the new town’s architectural blandness, however. The homes were pretty much what you could find in any suburb, but architectural allure was not one of Rouse’s goals. He wanted market housing that would appeal to the average consumer.

Frank Gehry, now a world-renowned architect who early in his career had slapped together the Exhibit Center and Merriweather Post Pavilion, decades later would comment about Rouse: “I don’t think his taste was very good. It was penny-loafer and tweed-coat. He was a God-fearing man who didn’t have much of an art education. His idea of architecture was little cabins and cottages and it was down home, home-spun and small scale.”

The essays that follow in this year-long series leading up to Columbia’s 50th birthday — never an “anniversary” but a “birthday,” celebrated with a big cake Rouse would cut at a lakefront celebration — will flesh out how those four goals turned out and much else that couldn’t be planned or foreseen.

The Merriweather Post Pavilion, foreground, was among the first buildings in Columbia, built as the summer home of the National Symphony Orchestra, which did not stay long. In the distance is American City Building, obscuring both the Teacher’s Building and the Exhibit Center. In the upper left is the empty acres on which the Columbia Mall would be built.

To Make a Profit

            Yes, the Rouse Company and Columbia would eventually turn a profit, but 10 years later than originally expected. In the mid-1970s the whole project almost went bankrupt, hundreds of Rouse employees were laid off, and Columbia’s continued development required a massive infusion of cash from Connecticut General, which dispatched three employees to watch over its investment.

I began covering the Rouse Company as a business in 1975 for the Columbia Flier, along with the school board and politics. No doubt this period of pain and strain had influenced my 1977 essay that debunked the rosy-colored rhetoric of the early days. The Rouse Company malls, well-built and well-situated in mostly affluent communities, were ultimately generating more income than Columbia.

This profitability led in 2004 to the company’s sale for $12.5 billion to General Growth Properties, the largest-ever real estate deal at the time. GGP swallowed up too much real estate too soon, and burdened by debt it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008.

The name of the once mighty Rouse Company disappeared from Columbia eight years after its founder had died, and long after he had been pushed out of its leadership. The admired white stucco headquarters Frank Gehry had designed temporarily bore the name of the Howard Hughes Corporation, the land development division that was once part of Rouse Company but spun off from GGP.

In a creative repurposing for The Rouse Company headquarters, the building was gutted to become a Whole Foods organic grocery store.

Sitting by a window in Whole Foods open dining area — a great place for a quiet mid-morning meeting — you can look out over Lake Kittamaqundi, the plaza, the fountain and the People Tree, the same view Jim Rouse had from his office that was once just one floor above.

The Rouse brothers, Willard and James, stand modestly on the lakefront near the fountain and People Tree. Jim Rouse’s office was on the third floor of the building that now houses Whole Foods. Photo by Len Lazarick

The only remnant of Rouse himself are two statues near the water of Jim Rouse and his brother Bill, who died at age 61. They were commissioned not by the company that bore his name, nor the Columbia Association nor Howard County, but by his nephew-in-law, Claiborn Carr III. Clai was once married to Bill Rouse’s daughter Cathy and worked for Rouse in sales and marketing, sometimes driving “Uncle Jim” around as he gave personal tours. Clai later developed office buildings in Columbia with Cathy’s brother Bill Rouse, at Rouse Associates.

After one of the statues fell down at the Symphony Woods office building, the sculptures sat in a closet for years till they were finally resurrected to their place of prominence. Most people must wonder who the men are and why they are there.

To Respect the Land

            Looking out his office window and from his modest modern home on the shore of Wilde Lake, Rouse could see a project that tried to protect the environment — as that goal was understood 50 years ago. There are many more trees now in Columbia than there were when the open farmland first was purchased; 10,000 were eventually planted, since Rouse insisted on landscaping on the lots it sold. The Middle Patuxent Valley is now a permanent nature preserve through the persistence of a naturalist who lived there — in exchange for greater densities elsewhere in the new town.

If planned today with the environment in mind, the streets might be narrower to reduce impervious surfaces — but where would people park those unplanned extra cars? There would be tighter controls on stormwater runoff, as well.

The ideals that informed Columbia’s design have now become standard in housing developments in Maryland and nationwide, with planned open space running through the stream valleys offering plenty of habitat for wildlife. You’re likely to see more animals on a Columbia cul-de-sac that honors the contours of the land than you might in a national park. The white-tail deer just love Columbia and its gardens, and so do the foxes, who eat the mice and bunnies, but perhaps not the skunks. A mother skunk and her babies once camped out under our front steps for several weeks before the critter catcher removed them.

To Provide for the Growth of People

            The original planning for Columbia provided for those institutions that might naturally evolve in any new development, but only after the residents had moved in. In the traditional pattern still seen today in other housing developments, farms would be converted to housing, then over time would come the stores, the churches, the schools, the libraries, the community buildings, pools and tennis courts. Rouse thought this pattern backward. Why not provide for these institutions from the start?

So as Columbia residents moved in or shortly after, they found shopping centers, pools and community centers, an interfaith center for use by multiple congregations, and land set aside for schools if not the schools themselves.

“The most remarkable thing about Columbia is that it is remarkable at all,” Rouse told a congressional committee in 1972. “It can and should be replicated and vastly improved upon in smaller and larger communities over and over again throughout America.”

That was not to be and rarely on the scale of Columbia, with the exception of such places as Woodlands outside Houston, inspired by Rouse in 1974 and now managed by Howard Hughes Corp. In many developments nationwide, Columbia’s influence can be seen in the proliferation of cul-de-sacs, rather than the old grid pattern of streets, and the group mailboxes that were an innovation the post office pushed in Columbia to reduce costs. Rouse spun their inconvenience as a way for neighbors to gather and chat, enhancing community life — certainly a stretch of the imagination.

Jim Rouse is awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Bill Clinton as Hillary Clinton looks on Sept. 28, 1995. Six months later Rouse died. White House photo, courtesy of Columbia Archives.

Where’s the City?

            As we look out Rouse’s window, we may call this downtown, but what Columbia still lacks after all these years is density and a feeling of urbanity. The goal was: “To build a complete city, not just a better suburb,” said Rouse. Yet, it is hard to call it a city with downtown half empty.

The 1970s oil crisis, caused by an Arab oil embargo after the 1973 war between Israel and its neighbors, and a recession with high inflation, devastated Columbia’s economic model. Housing sales plummeted, as did sale of land to build those houses.

Columbia had a bus system run by the Columbia Parks and Recreation Association — the Columbia Association, or CA for short (not the abbreviation for California or the medical shorthand for cancer). But the town was and is designed around the car. The oil embargo that created rationing and gas lines restricted driving.

The plan from the start was that as the town grew with apartments, townhouses and single family homes, the land at its core would become more valuable, and more expensive land prices drives buildings upward, creating urban density.

Prior to the economic troubles, the original economic model envisioned Columbia’s full development in 1980.

Thirty-six years later, that final phase of urban development is just beginning to happen. High-rise and mid-rise office buildings are again sprouting up on Little Patuxent Parkway; new urban-style apartment blocks are underway near the mall. The arts area around Merriweather is being redeveloped and enhanced. The downtown of a new city envisioned 50 years ago has finally been kicked off.

In a speech in 1979, in a rare admission of imperfections, Rouse said, “There are a hundred ways that Columbia is deficient, lots of things that are wrong, but there are a thousand ways in which Columbia is far beyond anything that could have happened unless we had worked toward an ideal.”

Next month: Columbia at 50: The Business of Columbia

 Len Lazarick has lived and worked in Columbia as a journalist for more than 40 years. He is currently the editor and publisher of, a news website about state government and politics and a political columnist for The Business Monthly. He has also worked as an editor at Patuxent Publishing, the Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune. This article is copyright by Len Lazarick.

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Have You Considered Planting a Dog-Safe Garden?

With summer in full swing, many dog owners are spending hours on evenings and weekends working in their gardens or weeding their flower beds. Have you ever wondered if some of to dogs too!

Some pet owners opt to just fence off their gardens from their pets. This can save a lot of hassle if you have a dog that digs or eats your plants, but it’s not guaranteed to prevent him from having a snack. The only way to keep Fido 100% safe is to steer clear of plants that are harmful to dogs.

NeoMam Studios sent me a great infographic recently that I think all pet owners need to see. Not only should you read it, but you should print it out and keep it in your gardening shed or garage; wherever you put your gardening supplies.

Some of the most common plants can be toxic to pets, including:

  • Aloe vera
  • Amaryllis
  • Azalea/Rhodedendron
  • Begonia
  • Daffodil
  • Ivy
  • Morning glory
  • Tomato plants
  • Tulip

Poisonous plants can cause minor reactions like gastrointestinal discomfort and nausea, and sadly they can also be toxic and lead to death if not treated quickly enough. It’s extremely important that you do some research on every plant you bring into your home – and that includes decorative flowers.

RELATED: Holistic Dog Health 101 – Ultimate Science-based Guides

We had a scary experience last year when my daffodils started coming up. I didn’t realize they were poisonous to dogs, and our Boxer ate the flower off every daffodil in my flower bed. Thankfully, I was outside with her and noticed what she was doing. When she started acting sluggish shortly after I immediately called the vet.

We induced vomiting with peroxide and thankfully, after a good night’s sleep, Chloe made a full recovery. 

If you have any suspicions that your dog has eaten a plant that may make him ill, call your veterinarian or your local emergency vet clinic immediately. If the reaction is mild, you may have time to bring your dog into the clinic. However, if the plant is toxic, you may need to take action immediately, and your veterinarian will be able walk you through what to do.

Not only do you need to be selective with the plants that you have around your home, there are many other simple ways to doggy-proof your garden. The infographic below not only shows tips on garden safety, but also about summer safety for your entire yard. It’s a great resource for all dog owners!

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