COLUMBIA — Residents of the Sixth Ward in Columbia have offered guarded support for proposals by GetAbout Columbia to build bike trails, sidewalks and shared-use paths in the area, as they anticipate an upcoming City Council hearing on priority projects to be held on Tuesday.
More than 60 people attended an informational meeting facilitated by Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe with the help of the Public Works Department at Shepard Boulevard Elementary School on Thursday evening. The meeting was a follow-up to the Sixth Ward meeting held on June 17 that laid the foundation for GetAbout Columbia projects in the area. Steve Saitta, the supervisor of park development with the Parks and Recreation Department; Stephen Meyer, of GetAbout Columbia; David Nichols, of the Public Works Department; Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade; and Pednet Coalition member Ian Thomas were also present.
The projects that were discussed included plans to construct a pedway along Old Highway 63, from Moon Valley Road to Bearfield Road, and a trail from Rock Hill Park to Stadium Boulevard that connects East Campus to the Stadium/Grindstone Trail.
The two were part of the proposed projects that had been included in a citywide priority list recommended by GetAbout Columbia’s advisory committee on July 1 for consideration by the City Council. The addition of a proposed sidewalk project on Stadium Boulevard from Providence Road to College Avenue and further planning modifications following the meeting bring the number of proposed priority projects to 19 and a total estimated cost of$16.1 million. The priority project list, however, will not be set until after the special City Council meeting that has been scheduled for Tuesday, according to Jill Stedem, the spokesperson for the Public Works Department.
The majority of those who attended nodded their heads throughout the briefing on Thursday, and some voiced support for the plans. But while no one opposed the plans outright, a few raised concerns about the locations of some of the trails. Lorri Kline was close to tears as she described how she came to realize that one of the trails was going to be built near the front yard of her home.
“I found out where it was going to go about three weeks ago,” said Kline. “Stephen Meyer called me and asked if I was interested in knowing more about it, and we set up a meeting. We went to see how close the trail would be, and I just started screaming.”
When asked what she thought would be the outcome of next week’s hearing, Kline said, “I really don’t know, but they seem to be willing to work with us. It’s good news that it’s not absolutely final, but it sounds awfully final to me. It’s probably a done deal.”
A few had reservations about the advisory committee’s decision to include a connection between Bluff Dale Drive and the Rollins-Stadium Road trail.
When one of the residents asked about the Bluff Dale connection, Hoppe said the council had a work session on June 25 in which the connection was shelved, adding that members of the GetAbout Columbia advisory committee on July 1 suggested adding it back in. She acknowledged that the connection may be an “item of contention.”
“I don’t think one evening is going to be long enough, and my concern is that they would feel like they had approval on the plan,” said Barbara Wren of the upcoming council hearing. Wren lives on Bluff Dale Drive.
Councilwoman Hoppe said she wanted to give residents an opportunity to ask questions and to share their ideas, concerns and support before the proposed plans are brought before the council on Tuesday.
“There’s a lot going on here, in my opinion, and I feel we don’t have to do everything at once, and that’s their concern,” she said. “What may be the best thing to do is to do what everyone agrees on and have people saying they want to be added in, instead of saying, ‘No, don’t add us.’ So we should work on what’s the most important thing to accomplish, and then we can gradually work on the things that are the more resisted. I think communities are like that.”
“There was no one that said this whole thing was a waste of money. So it’s a matter of what the details are, how it’s going to work and what should be done first,” the councilwoman added. “I think that the public reaction to the overall trail system in the Sixth Ward was positive and that the concerns were specific to small areas.”
Among the other concerns raised by the residents were the location of some of the routes, flood prone areas and privacy and security issues.