COLUMBIA — A 130-acre park that will help the city fulfill its Greenbelt Plan and its Master Trail Plan is in the works for western Columbia.
Plans for the park took a step forward Tuesday when the Columbia City Council unanimously approved a bill to annex and rezone 27 1/2 acres of undeveloped floodplain on the southwest side of Strawn Road, also known as Route ZZ. The property was previously zoned for single-family residential use in the county. The city established R-1,or single-family, zoning, which is typical for parks.
The plans for this park and other nature areas are outlined a document, available for download as a PDF on the city's Web site, titled "Metro Greenbelt/Trail Plan". Those plans, adopted in 2002 and updated in 2005, identify the maintenance of nature areas as important and provide a general location or route for each of the future trails proposed for Columbia. The plans are conceptual, however, and do not identify exact locations of the trails. Precise alignments are necessary so the city can identify and acquire right of way.
Parks and Recreation director Mike Hood said the city bought the land for the 130-acre park from Ralph and Laveta Anderson in late December 2008 for $185,500.
"The city had an appraisal done, and then the property owner had an appraisal done to get an estimate of value. The purchase price is the midpoint between those two values," Hood said.
Park Services manager Mike Griggs said that when the former landowners were looking to sell the land, they came to the city first.
The park property includes the 27 1/2-acre Anderson tract and 102 adjacent acres the city already owned. Griggs said that in accordance with the Greenbelt Plan, development of the park will protect streams and their surrounding area.
"We're not letting anyone bulldoze here,” Griggs said. “The Greenbelt Plan doesn't allow that within a stream corridor."
A new trail in conjunction with the park will run alongside Perche Creek before intersecting with the MKT Trail. Griggs said the city's goal is eventually to create a loop of trails around Columbia, including the MKT; the Bear Creek, Cosmo Park and Hinkson Creek trails; and the Perche Creek Trail in planning.
"Columbia is rapidly developing, and the parks and trails master plan(s) help us line out our future sites for trails and parks," Griggs said. "The citizens have a great deal of input into these master plans, and we make sure their needs are met."
It will probably take a year or two to develop plans for the new park, Griggs said, because the city has no money designated for it yet. Because the area can flood four or more times a year, he sees the park becoming more of an open field with soccer goals, which would allow the area to be used for other sports such as rugby and Ultimate Frisbee.
"If it does flood, it really won't do a lot of damage,” Griggs said. “A fence in a flood gets torn up, so baseball fields probably won't be built there just because of that."
In the next few years, the Parks and Recreation Department staff will evaluate the site to determine how the future park can best benefit the community.