Help the Community Ecology Institute save this Columbia farm

It’s a six-acre organic farm smack dab in the middle of Columbia’s Hickory Ridge Village that the Shaw family has worked for almost 40 years. The nonprofit Community Ecology Institute (CEI) wants to save the farm from development but needs to raise $300,000 by the middle of May to make it happen. There are a multitude of reasons why we need to support them.

Chief among them is CEI understands the impact that climate change may have on our community. They are committed to being a model for sustainable practices and teaching the skills of Mitigation, Adaptation and Resilience. Learn about their vision and help support it if you can. It’s a worthy cause and important for the future of Columbia and Howard County, Md.

Harry Schwarz – April 11, 2019

Community Ecology Institute: Growing a farm into a living classroom in Howard County [EXCERPTS]

Janene Holzberg (Baltimore Sun), March 22, 2019

Chiara D’Amore wants to transform a small organic farm in Columbia into a living classroom for the nonprofit she founded in 2016 with a mission to reconnect people to the natural world.

Community Ecology Center Site plan (courtesy of Community Ecology Institute) CLICK ON IMAGE FOR ENLARGED VERSION

D’Amore said CEI [Community Ecology Institute] is working to raise $300,000 to purchase Shaw Farm, a 6.4-acre property in a residential neighborhood near Atholton High School.

Having a facility at 8000 Harriet Tubman Lane would boost the nonprofit’s profile in the community and permit expanded programming, D’Amore said, while saving a 38-year-old family farm from development at the same time.

Aerial view, Shaw Farm (courtesy of Community Ecology Institute)

“There is a fire in me to protect this land,” said D’Amore, who has a master’s degree in environmental science and engineering and a doctorate in sustainability education.

If the farm purchase moves forward, a 4,000-square-foot barn on the property that is 75 percent finished would become classroom and office space.

The Shaw family sold organic produce for years at county farmers markets and donated thousands of pounds of vegetables and fruit to people in need, he said. They also sold produce in a community-supported agriculture program and later worked with food banks.

Shaw Farm (courtesy of Community Ecology Institute)

“Having been involved intimately with this land for almost 38 years, it is very important to me to find new stewards for the farm,” he stated.

“Working with Chiara and the other members of the Community Ecology Institute will ensure that my family’s values of clean air, water, soil and food — and putting people ahead of profits — will continue,” he wrote.

https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/bs-md-ho-community-ecology-institute-0324-story.html

The Community Ecology Institute

The Community Ecology Institute (CEI) is a Howard County based non-profit organization with a vision for a world in which human and natural communities thrive together. Our mission is to foster socially and ecologically healthy communities by enhancing the connections between all people and the natural world.

We are protecting this unique property from being developed and will be creating a Community Ecology Center where people can come to learn through hands on experiences about how they can have healthier, more sustainable lifestyles through:

  • Farm preservation & agricultural knowledge — There is little agricultural land left in eastern Howard County, especially in Columbia. Preserving this six-acre organic farm is a worthwhile endeavor in its own right!
  • Environmental sustainability & climate action — We will demonstrate and offer educational programming related to: conservation landscapes such as rain gardens, pollinator gardens, and food forests; . . . reducing waste through “refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle” approaches; . . . energy and water efficiency; . . . and sequestering carbon in the soil.
  • Experiential education programming — CEI’s mission focuses on helping people develop strong connections with the natural environment because research shows how important such experiences are for people’s well-being, the generation of knowledge that makes a difference, and the cultivation of an active environmental ethic.
4,000 sq.ft. barn at Shaw Farm (courtesy of Community Ecology Institute)
  • Health & nutrition programming — farm to table programs that help the community connect with the benefits of eating local produce and space for community health practitioners to run programming
  • African American heritage programming — Local historians believe this area was an important point in the county’s Underground Railroad connections because 17 freed slaves were each given land in the community, hence the original name of Freetown.
Unfinished second floor of barn at Shaw Farm (courtesy of Community Ecology Institute)

https://www.communityecologyinstitute.org/community-ecology-center.html

Community Ecology Institute provides education on ways to mitigate climate change

As a coastal state and home to the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland is among the states most vulnerable to the effects of climate change through increases in sea levels, precipitation events, summer heat waves, and the frequency and intensity of storms. CEI is a signatory of the We Are Still In Agreement, and through the Community Ecology Center we seek to educate and support individuals, families, organizations, and communities on the local effects of climate change and empower them to harness local opportunities for action through Mitigation, Adaptation and Resilience.

The Community Ecology Center will provide opportunities for people and organizations to calculate their “Carbon Footprint” (the amount of GHG they emit) and provide corresponding actions that can strategically reduce those footprints. Workshops and information sessions will be the platform for discussing the methods of calculations, recommendations for reductions such as carbon sequestration gardens, energy efficiency options and habits that can reduce carbon output.

The Community Ecology Center will assist residents and their communities in building resiliency in conjunction with mitigation and adaptation efforts through a series of educational workshops with topics such as emergency preparedness, urban forestry, water conservation, sustainability, supporting local farms, gardening, and how to engage with local and state political initiatives and planning.

https://www.communityecologyinstitute.org/climate-action.html

And speaking of climate change —

County Executive Ball Announces Major Commitments to Climate Action [EXCERPTS]

COLUMBIA, February 26, 2019

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today made a series of environmental commitments that will make the County a leader in environmental sustainability, reduce emissions and stem the causes of climate change. The news conference was held at the County’s Robinson Nature Center, a LEED Platinum facility operated by Howard County Recreation and Parks.

(by Howard County Government)

“It will be on all of us to continue to lead by example in the fight against climate change,” said Ball. “As your County Executive, I pledge bold leadership to make Howard County a safe and healthy place for generations to come.

The Maryland Commission on Climate Change (MCCC) reports that our state is already seeing the effects of a rapidly changing climate, posing a threat to the health, security, and prosperity of our communities. From these threats, there is also opportunity – opportunity to support a green economy in Howard County where our residents receive training and gain critical skills that enable them to be successful in the green jobs of the future.”

Howard County has signed on to [The Paris Agreement] and will aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of County government operations 45 percent below 2010 levels by the year 2030 and reach zero emissions by 2050. This will be accomplished by reducing County energy use, lowering its fuel consumption, and increasing renewable energy generation on County property. To learn more, visit https://www.wearestillin.com/organization/howard-county-md

Additionally, Ball committed to reduce land waste by announcing the expansion of the curbside food scraps collections area that will include almost 10,000 additional homes to the program. These residents will receive a postcard with signup information about the service which is set to begin on April 1st. The expanded area being served will include parts of the Villages of Owen Brown and Oakland Mills.

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/News/ArticleID/1419/News022619b#prettyPhoto

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We need to revitalize the Hickory Ridge Village Center, now

Kimco presented their plans for the revitalization of the Hickory Ridge Village Center to the Howard County Planning Board on January 4, 2018.  Many Hickory Ridge residents, including long-time denizens, support Kimco’s proposal.  The Village Board and most citizens that testified at the hearing oppose it. But the issues raised by the proponents are central to the future of Hickory Ridge, Columbia, and Howard County. To further the conversation, following are excerpts from the testimony of  several supporters who testified at Thursday’s hearing.

Eric Stein, Hickory Ridge

Owner, Decanter Fine Wines, Hickory Ridge Village Center

I am in favor of the plan, because I believe the Hickory Ridge Village Center is failing.  When the Giant opened in 1992, it was advertised as a gourmet Giant. It isn’t. Not today, and hasn’t been for many years.  Today, we have 4 empty bays in the center representing 65% of 1 building, and likely more to come.  Contrary to belief, Kimco, the landlord, hasn’t forced these businesses to leave.  They have left for many reasons, but they will not be replaced until a decision is made on our future, and we’re suffering. Once this plan is approved, we will still have several years of an under-performing center.

Do we remain an outdated design where the merchants face inward and can’t be seen, or do we accept one that gives us a chance to compete with contemporary concepts.  The apartments are not an option, but a necessity.  You can’t do anything without people, and those that have left the center aren’t coming back.  At least not until we offer them an array of businesses that appeal to a newer audience as Columbia’s growth continues. Continue reading We need to revitalize the Hickory Ridge Village Center, now

Which version of the Hickory Ridge Village Center is likely to survive?

The Howard County Design Advisory Committee (DAP) is reviewing Kimco’s revised plan for the Hickory Ridge Village Center on Wednesday, February 8th.  Their decision may very well determine whether the Village Center survives. Moreover, it’s a decision that will affect all of Columbia and whether our city will take the steps to become truly sustainable.

There is considerable community opposition to adding apartments to the Village Center.  Many residents of Hickory Ridge feel just as strongly that the higher density is essential to the Center’s future viability.  It is a struggle that has occurred in Columbia before and is likely to continue. I support the following perspective, and it applies to other Village Centers as well.

Dear members of the Design Advisory Panel,

I represent a citizens’ action group of Hickory Ridge residents recently formed to help ensure a viable Hickory Ridge village center, one that would be designed for the 21st century.  Our group, Citizens in favor of a Vibrant Village Center (CIVVC), believes that Kimco’s revised plan for the village center offers the best hope of creating a flourishing village center 10 years from now.

We also think Kimco’s revised plan responds appropriately to the DAP’s suggestions at its last meeting. Here’s why:

Continue reading Which version of the Hickory Ridge Village Center is likely to survive?

Commentary: Approve the Plan for Hickory Ridge Village Center

Kimco’s proposal for redevelopment of the Hickory Ridge Village Center is to be considered by the Howard County Design Advisory Panel next Wednesday December 7. Like the rest of Columbia, the issue of increased urbanization at this central community hub is at the heart of controversy.

I support the plan. In the face of continued population growth, suburban sprawl and development of more and more of our natural lands are not sustainable. Higher densities in appropriate locations throughout Columbia is smart growth, will promote public transit, and will serve to improve pedestrian and bicycle amenities.  Two of my previous posts about this subject are here and here.

Some residents of Hickory Ridge formed a group to support Kimco’s revised plan for redeveloping the Hickory Ridge Village Center. Their argument below is one that could easily apply to all of Columbia.

Citizens In favor of a Vibrant Village Center (CIVVC)

Many of us have attended the public meetings Kimco has held and been disturbed by both the tone and substance of the comments made by many in opposition to the plan. The level of uncertainty, fear, and worst-case scenarios has been high in these meetings.

The purpose of CIVVC, then, is to foster a rational dialogue about the merits and Continue reading Commentary: Approve the Plan for Hickory Ridge Village Center

Life at the new Hickory Ridge Village Center (circa 2024)

I live in the new Hickory Ridge Village Center that was finally completed in 2022. Locals will remember that Kimco proposed to redevelop the Village Center in 2016 with an initial plan that was roundly criticized for the height and number of apartments being introduced, the parking lot-centric design, the lack of intimacy for the Village Green, and the failure to embrace the future Columbia Association Park. The revised plan attempted to address all these issues, including reducing the size of the apartment building, and was approved in 2018.

Cathy and I were pleased The Apartments at Hickory Ridge Village Center, with all its amenities and high-end finishes, was available after the kids moved out of our single-family home. By moving here from Clary’s Forest neighborhood, we have been able to keep in touch with our friends and pursue a lot of the same activities. Cathy is a Tai Sophia-trained acupuncturist; is able to see her patients in an office here in the Village Center. I work for a nonprofit in Town Center and bike there when I can, traveling mostly on the new Downtown Columbia Trail.

The Apartments at Hickory Ridge Village Center
The Apartments at Hickory Ridge Village Center (Kimco)

Most of our immediate neighbors are professionals. There are some retirees, a doctor at the Hospital and his wife, a Philosophy professor at HCC, a couple who operate a day spa with two kids, a young lady that does animation for a firm, a plumber and his adult son, somebody that works at NSA. Our friends from over Quarterstaff Road are downsizing and moving here next month.

It’s easy to get to know folks here — the apartment has monthly activities that bring people together. I’m a member of the HRVC Merchant and Resident Advisory Council that works with Kimco to make sure this stays a nice Village Center. Cathy and I also play in the monthly bocce league that meets in the new Columbia Association Park at the end of The Avenue. We have players from the Clemens Crossing neighborhood, and some folks from Sunrise and Harmony Hall retirement homes as well.

The new Avenue
The new “Avenue” at Hickory Ridge Village Center (Kimco), with the Columbia Association Park at the end.

We love being able to walk to all the stores here; thank goodness Decanter Fine Wines agreed to remain in the Center. There are Village concerts and other events in the Columbia Association Park, along with a tot lot, trails, and picnic tables. And it is true bliss to to be able to amble out of our apartment and eat at the new coffee shop, dine at one of our favorite restaurants (including a new Argentinian steak house), or hang out on the Village Green. We’ll meet friends or just come down on a whim.  And among the shops are two places my wife frequents, a new upscale hair salon for women and a yoga studio and apparel shop.

People dismissed the idea when the apartments were proposed, but we hardly ever use our car. The Apartment has its own pool and fitness center. Cathy and I use our bikes even more with the improvements that have been made to the Columbia Trail system. And the increased density in Town Center and a few of the other Village Centers has enabled buses that come through here every hour. A new transit hub in Town Center makes it easy to take advantage of longer distance transportation.

Entrance
Hickory Ridge Village Center (Kimco)

People were skeptical back in 2016 about the impact a 230 unit luxury apartment building would have on our Village Center. From my perspective, it has made the Center more of a focal point for our community of Hickory Ridge. The apartments have brought greater stability to the merchants, has encouraged Giant to improve their store, and has attracted additional retail. The quality of the stores and expanded amenities have been cause for an even greater diversity of people gathering here and making it a part of their lives. Life at the new Hickory Ridge Village Center is everything I could want.

Featured image at top of post

http://www.hickoryridgedevelopment.com/webfiles/documents/2016_0803_HRVC_Community_Meeting.pdf

 

 

National Night Out in HoCoMD Builds Community Partnership

The neighbors on our cul-de-sac in Clary’s Bright Passage, Hickory Ridge, Columbia, Md. are hosting an ice cream social for National Night Out (NNO) on August 2nd. The block party will be great fun, and serve to strengthen our neighborhood with more connections among neighbors.

Howard County Police will also be participating, a great example of community policing (“to protect and serve”). In light of the recent shootings of Cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge, it’s important we thank our First Responders, that they truly get how grateful we are for their protection.

And we need to do our part to establish partnership. Citizens will feel safer, and it makes it more likely a Cop will hear when he or she has screwed up.

There are over twenty other community-hosted parties being organized throughout Howard County. Click here for the local event near you:

https://www.howardcountymd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=krlYimQqESM%3d&portalid=0 Continue reading National Night Out in HoCoMD Builds Community Partnership

Hickory Ridge Village Center Redevelopment (post#2)

3D Sketch of Kimco proposal for Hickory Ridge Village Center Redevelopment
3D Sketch of Kimco proposal for Hickory Ridge Village Center Redevelopment (by Jerry Lioi)

This sketch is based on the drawing Kimco has shown the community, mainly to illustrate the relative locations and heights of the buildings. The existing Giant Food store is at the top of the sketch and the proposed 5-story apartment building, including an interior parking deck, to the right. Existing retail stores wrap around the left side of the Giant. New retail stores to replace the existing building are shown in red on the ground floor of the apartment building and the three new buildings surrounding the parking lot. (The Professor)