COLUMBIA — After soliciting public opinion through an online survey, the Columbia Parks and Recreation Commission and city staff has recommended names for the regional park planned for southeast Columbia near Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
The area is composed of two tracts. Elvin Sapp donated the first tract, 63 acres of the 140-acre northern portion, to the city. The agreement stipulated that the land be named after its former owner, A. Perry Philips, hence the recommendation “A. Perry Philips Park.” The city bought the southern tract from the Crane family for $8.3 million, and the recommendation is: “Gans Creek Recreation Area.”
The Parks and Recreation staff conducted a two-month online survey late last year to gather public input on names for the southern tract. The most frequent recommendations included “Gans” in the name, after Gans Creek, which runs through the property.
The city decided to recommend naming the tracts separately based on public meeting input, which indicated a lack of support for naming the Crane property after Philips.
The commission also discussed the issue of naming the Crane property a park or a recreation area. Because the city has plans to make it a high use recreation area, and in order to differentiate between it and the Philips Park tract, the commission and staff recommended “recreation area” rather than “park.”
Despite the two tracts having different names and being separated by a road, Parks and Recreation commissioner Gary Kespohl said it will all look like one park.
Fellow commissioner Dan Devine said it’s too early to know exactly what will be put in the park, but he mentioned softball fields, football fields and trails. He said the commission will gather public input before developing a master plan.
“We want it to be more of a regional park that’s going to offer lots of different things,” Devine said. “It’ll be phased in in parts. You want to do it right and make sure what you put in is going to last.”
Kespohl said the Philips tract will include a boat ramp and fishing area on Bristol Lake. He also said there has even been some discussion of including equestrian facilities in the park.
Kespohl, however, has reservations about starting development before Columbia renews its parks sales tax and pays off the remainder of the bonds used to pay for the Crane tract.
“We need to not spend a lot of money developing the park until we get it paid off,” Kespohl said. “I hate to put the cart before the horse and start developing land before we get the park tax renewed.”
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said the $3.78 million park bond will be paid off in 2011 using the permanent one-eighth-cent park sales tax. However, he said the other non-permanent one-eighth-cent sales tax used for parks will expire in 2011 and is already allocated for specific projects other than the new park.
“I could anticipate if the city decides to ask for a renewal of the tax, one of the projects it will be used for is to provide funding for the development of the park,” Hood said.
Hood’s staff is gathering public input to compile a master plan for the park. It will then compile three to four facility options that could be included in the park, and Hood hopes to have a plan complete by next summer.
Meanwhile, the Philips tract remains closed to the public, and the Crane tract will not be officially available to the city until September. Hood said the department is evaluating plans to open the Philips property soon, but the rain has slowed everything down.
“I’m hopeful to have it opened in the near future,” Hood said.