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Exploring Columbia (Maryland) Walks – What Did We Learn??

Wilde Lake from westI have just completed leading a series of five Exploring Columbia On Foot walks around my home town for our homeowner’s association, The Columbia Association. We had a great time, good weather, and lots of interesting discussion. In order to assess whether these should be offered again and determine how to make them better, it is a good time to reflect on the purpose and value of these walks to the residents of our town. This information may be of value to you wherever you may live. If you went on these walks please send in your comments.

Participation – We did not know how many people would come out to these walks. After all we had deliberately chosen not to do them on a weekend since weekends are so busy for many people. We chose Thursday mornings at 10 to 11:30. We were very pleased to have 40 to 80 people come out for each of the walks. We thought this was a great response. Much of this was probably due to the publicity campaign and use of social media. However, in this town of 100,000 people, there are obviously many more people who did not hear about it or could not come.

gbh by gittFormat – With this number of people we decided to plan on about 2 miles of walking with 4 to 5 stops where information could be shared in the form of stories. We used a microphone to amplify the speaker’s voice. We decided to share stories about the history of the location, the wildlife, the community, and plans for the future. This seemed to work and many questions were generated. We had 3 knowledgeable people on each walk who were able to answer questions while we walked.

Intent – We hoped that by introducing the participants to the paths and by telling stories we would engage more people to want to get outside more. We wanted everyone to get a greater sense of place and to come away with a desire to learn more about their community. There are 95 miles of paved pathways in our community and most people have not explored them all.

lake kitt walkersFeedback – We heard from many participants that the stories were engaging and that they never knew some of these places existed. Some people had not been comfortable previously exploring on their own. Most people commented that they saw things on the walks that they had not seen before. The walks gave them a chance to open their eyes and learn more about their community.

Resources – The Columbia Association has put up many pathway signs to help walkers find their way. They also have an app online with all the pathways shown. I also have an online presence that describes many of the great places to walk in this area

Appreciation – I would like to thank @Sean Harbaugh, @Chick Rhodehamel, @Barbara Kellner, @Mary Weeks, and @David Greisman for their efforts and contributions to these walks. Photos by @Warren Gitt, @Jillian Rydl, and @Craig Bruce.

Take-a-way – Schedule it and they will come!!!! There are evidently plenty of people who want a good excuse to get outside and explore their communities. Getting the word out is always the biggest challenge. Telling concise stories to wet participant’s appetites is sufficient. 90 to 120 minutes seems to satisfy most participants. Be prepared to direct people to other resources in case they want more information. Most attendees wanted to know how to learn about future hikes. I will post advance notice of all future hikes on the Ned Tillman – Saving The Places Facebook page or check in at my Scheduled Events page on the website. More stories about this region can be found in The Chesapeake Watershed.


  1. Although scheduling conflicts allowed me to do only one of the hikes I truly enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the environment that surrounds us in Columbia. I look forward to doing more hikes in the future. I would enjoy doing some of these in winter to learn about how seasonal change impacts our environment.


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