COLUMBIA – An ambitious new master plan for A. Perry Philips Park and Gans Creek Recreation Area includes an indoor sports complex, an indoor ice rink, shelters, playgrounds and ball fields while still preserving much of the natural character of the land south of Gans Road.
The plan will be the subject of public hearings from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Sept. 23 at the Activity and Recreation Center, 1701 W. Ash St.
The park property consists of two tracts: 140 acres of the former Philips property and 320 acres south of Gans Road that was formerly owned by the Crane family. The combined 460 acres makes the area the second-largest park holding in Columbia, only slightly smaller than Cosmo Park.
The park master plan was developed from opinions gathered at several meetings and public surveys, as well as from needs identified by the city’s overall master plan for parks and recreation.
At the latest meetings, held in December 2008 and January 2009, two options for the park plan were presented, and the city distributed surveys to residents to learn what they liked and disliked about each option.
Anthony Lowery, a senior parks planner for the city who is handling the design of the southeast regional park, said the new plan combines the most popular features of the first two options but also includes fresh ideas from the public.
"I'm not sure that we would have come up with an equestrian area at all if it had just been us sitting here,” Lowery said.
The main features of the plan include a multipurpose indoor sports complex, an indoor/outdoor water park, an indoor ice rink, an equestrian area and sports fields. Other features include trails, one or more indoor pavilions, a dog park, hard-surface courts, shelters and playgrounds.
"It was acknowledged that it was appropriate to set some of the park aside for sports fields and more active uses," said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood. "That's one of the reasons we purchased the property and the land in the first place."
Still, the park's staff has set aside 87 acres of the area as a buffer around Gans Creek and a natural preservation area. Hood said the creek buffer proved popular in surveys.
"There was a lot of support for protecting the area along Gans Creek,” Hood said. “A lot of people see Gans Creek as a quality waterway, so there was strong support to create a large natural buffer zone to help protect the stream.”
Lowery said he also hopes to restore some of the natural habitat on the former Crane property.
"It used to be a working cattle farm, so some of the areas were torn up because of cattle crossings,” Lowery said. “Eventually our guys will get in there and do some stream restoration. Some of it is already coming back naturally, but we're looking to help improve the stream."
The city is also trying to emphasize the park's natural beauty and use resources that are already there.
"There was significant support for the idea of maximizing the use of the lake, and having the lake become the focal point of that portion of the park. Such things as trails shelters, access to the lake via a boat ramp, etc., received strong support," Hood said. Lowery added that the plan calls for protecting the lake and creek as much as possible.
"We'll have detention basins all throughout the area where we will hold the storm water collected off the fields,” he said. “If you're going to have a baseball field or football field, you are going to have to put down fertilizers and herbicide. This way we can collect it and clean it up before it gets down into the creek.”
The park remains in the early stages of development, and the plan can still be modified to reflect public input before it goes to the City Council for final approval.
Lowery said it might be 20 years before the park is fully developed. As it stands, there is no money in place to pay for development. An extension of the city’s parks sales tax would be the most likely source.
"If it passes we'll have money to start doing some of the development,” Lowery said. “If it doesn't pass, it will be a lot slower.”
Gans Creek Recreation Area is open to the public and is open to bowhunting for hunters who have taken the city bowhunting class.
"It was added this year for the first time to the deer-hunting program," said Becky Stidham, management support specialists at the department. "But right now that's the only activity open on the property."
"That and hiking," added Lowery.
The Philips portion of the property is also open to the public, and fishing has proved to be a popular activity.
By the end of the year, docks and a parking lot will be added, with restrooms following soon after.