COLUMBIA - Residents of three neighborhoods are looking forward to new parks the city plans to develop in the near future.
The three new parks will be in the Cascades, the Grasslands and on Smiley Lane near the Vanderveen subdivision. City park planners Mike Snyder and Richard Perkins have held recent meetings with residents of each neighborhood. They presented them with two options for typical park developments and asked for feedback on what they would like their parks to look like.
For further information on neighborhood parks, call the Parks and Recreation Department at 874-7201 or visit its Web site at gocolumbiamo.com/ParksandRec/.
Attendees were given comment sheets to fill out, asking them which of the two options they preferred and what they liked and disliked about each option. The plans will then evolve based on the comments.
Among the top concerns were safety, building materials and age-level appeal of the play equipment.
Vanderveen resident Bill Wells worried about safety, saying one of his top priorities in a park is "having a playground away from the street." Residents of all three neighborhoods expressed similar concerns on the comment sheets. Wells also expressed interest in what material would be used to make the playground, saying he would "prefer plastic to wood."
Many residents also urged the city to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act by incorporating such features as non-gravel play surfaces and trails of the appropriate width. Snyder assured residents that all ADA requirements would be met.
Wells, the father of a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old, said he would also like to see a playground that his younger children can enjoy.
Cascades resident Sherry Kudrna, a mother of two children, ages 8 and 2, said the same about the park coming to her neighborhood. She would "like to see play equipment that appeals to both younger and older children."
Plans for pavilions, or small shaded shelters for small gatherings or for parents to rest in, sparked conversation among residents in all three neighborhoods. Wells is thrilled with the idea but said he would like to see it hooked up with electricity, water, lights and a sound system.
"It would allow families to congregate there for family gatherings or reunions," Wells said.
Residents of the Grasslands and the Cascades, however, aren't as enthusiastic. Cascades residents noted that the subdivision already has a clubhouse and said they would prefer a few picnic tables. One Grasslands resident who filled out a comment sheet worried that a pavilion there would encourage student parties, given the neighborhoods' proximity to fraternity houses.
Kudrna also worried that basketball courts and night lighting could lead to loitering and vandalism in the Cascades park. She would, however, like to see tennis courts, without lights, as a feature of the park. Many residents showed interest in amenities such as tennis courts, sand volleyball courts or a baseball backstop, though none of these were part of the options presented by the park planners.
Although the residents might not agree on the specific features of their parks, they do seem to agree that they'll be nice places for parents and kids to relax and have fun.
"My wife is a stay-at-home mom, and it'll be great to have somewhere across the street for her to take the kids," Wells said, adding that "she is also in a play group, and the park would be a close place for them to meet."
Kudrna also thinks a park will add a lot to her young neighborhood. She said she has talked to several other parents on her street, and "everyone is on board with the park plan."
The city plans to begin dirt work on the Cascades park by the end of the year and will break ground on the Grasslands and Smiley Lane parks next spring. All three parks will be ongoing projects through the summer of 2009.
The City Council held a public hearing on the Grasslands park in June and is scheduled to hold similar hearings on the Cascades and Smiley Lane parks Monday night. The city has a budget of $148,000 for the Grasslands park and budgets of $145,000 for the other two.