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Family prepares to sell land for Perche Creek Trail

Sunday, October 19, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 12:13 a.m. CDT, Monday, October 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — Behind MasterTech Plumbing on Interstate 70 Drive S.W. rests a field full of memories for the Anderson family of Columbia.

LaVeta and Ralph Anderson's daughter, Laura, learned how to drive by weaving through the rows of corn her father farmed. Ralph Anderson also farmed soybeans in the 27.5-acre field. LaVeta Anderson occasionally went for walks there to enjoy its peacefulness.

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"It's really quite pretty," said LaVeta Anderson. "It relaxes me."

But soon, the field could be out of the family's hands and owned by the city, which has designated a need for a Perche Creek Trail that would go through the land.

Today, the Columbia City Council could pass an ordinance allowing the land to be purchased by the city, ending a bidding process that started in 2002. The bidding has been through three appraisals and has LaVeta Anderson hoping others can enjoy the area as her family has for decades.

"It's a beautiful piece," LaVeta Anderson said. "I would hope the people of Columbia would appreciate it and enjoy it."

Anderson and her husband, Ralph, have owned the northern portion of the land closest to I-70 alongside Perche Creek since the late 1970s.

In its 2002 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan, the city declared a need for a Perche Creek Trail to start near I-70 and connect with the MKT Trail to the south.

That same year, LaVeta Anderson contacted the city about selling the family's land to the city.

Moore and Shryock, a Columbia appraisal company, appraised the 27.5 acres at $108,000, a price too low for the Anderson family.

In 2005, the city asked Moore and Shryock to update its initial appraisal. The land was appraised at $143,000, still not high enough for the Andersons.

Two years later, in 2007, Stephen Wiley conducted a third appraisal paid for by the Anderson family. Wiley thought the land was worth $220,000.

"It's not an exact science," said Steve Saitta, the city's park development superintendent. "It's something where the prices can vary somewhat."

The city's park staff and the Anderson family reached an agreement to sell the land for $185,500. The parties adjusted the 2005 appraisal for inflation, increasing it to $151,000, and used the third appraisal of $220,000 to agree to a compromise of $185,000, roughly the average of the two numbers.

"I certainly think they got it at a very fair price," LaVeta Anderson said.

In addition to the cost compensation, the city must also name the land or place a sign at the property recognizing the family's donation and use the land "for recreational and educational purposes into perpetuity," the memo to the City Council reads.

Once the trail is built, it will connect with the MKT Trail to the south. The city's sewer division owns the 101.87 acres south of the Anderson property along Perche Creek. Saitta said negotiations could begin soon regarding the 101.87 acres.

 "We think they’ve got great potential," Saitta said of the pieces of land.

He also said the city plans to use some of the Anderson family's land for possible athletic fields.

When the trail will be built is unknown, Saitta said. The Greenbelt/Trails 2005 Park Sales Tax is funding the purchasing of the land, but the account doesn't have the funds to build the trail. The trail could be funded through a bond issue or a future sales tax option, Saitta said.

The city did not ask for GetAbout Columbia funding for the trail project, Saitta said, because the trail is in its early stages and lacks connections to other trails.

As newer neighborhoods have begun to settle near Perche Creek, LaVeta Anderson knows the area has changed since the family bought it so Ralph could farm.

Recent rain has muddied the field that LaVeta Anderson would often walk through. Cherry trees help border the open land.

The corn and soybeans that Ralph Anderson farmed have been replaced with prairie, weeds and wildflowers that bloom without interference. The tire markings that Laura created are also gone. The buzzing of cars on I-70 sometimes drowns out the chirping of birds.

“They have fond memories of it,” LaVeta Anderson said of the couple’s two children, Laura and Richard.

But Ralph Anderson stopped farming years ago, and Ralph and LaVeta have reached retirement age and want to more frequently visit their children, who live in Oklahoma and Michigan.

After nearly 40 years of owning the land, LaVeta said she's glad the rest of Columbia will have the chance to enjoy the land as much as her family does.

"I think that would be wonderful for them to feel that they have a place to go to enjoy nature," LaVeta Anderson said. "It just seems like this is a good time to let other people enjoy it."


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