Meeting attendees provide input on Southeast Regional Park in Columbia

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | 11:22 p.m. CDT; updated 9:36 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

COLUMBIA — Gordon Acton, 52, just wants to fly his remote-controlled airplanes. But he can't, at least within city limits, because there isn't a designated area to fly the planes.

The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department proposed its master plan for the Southeast Regional Park on Tuesday evening at the Activity and Recreation Center. The city bought the property in 2007.


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Acton would like a place to fly remote-controlled airplanes to be included in the plan. He has been flying planes recreationally for 35 to 40 years, but although two parks allowed them in the past, there is currently no place in Columbia that permits these planes.

"They can lose control and crash," Park Services Manager Mike Griggs said. "It's just not good for an active park."

Acton was one of about a dozen people who attended the meeting. The plan was generally well-received, but attendees voiced concerns about some aspects of the plan, such as the proposed equestrian area.

"I think they did a good job listening to what people wanted and blending that in a reasonable fashion," said Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe about the department.

The 17 acres of open area set aside for horses was one of the most popular items at previous public meetings.

"My only concern is over-usage of the equestrian area. It may affect the watershed," said Kirsten Alvey, a Jefferson City resident who owns property in Boone County. The equestrian feature would be located above the flow of the creek.

Alvey said she isn't opposed to the equestrian area, but thinks it might be better in a different area of the park, preferably below the creek, where manure and mud wouldn't get into the water.

She thinks the area needs to be heavily regulated to prevent overuse. She also said she's concerned that sink holes in that area would be unsafe for the horses.

Pat Smith, 58, who lives six miles north of Columbia, also saw potential problems with the area, saying it might not be large enough for horses. However, Smith said if the plan is carried out responsibly, she doesn't think there will be any major problems.

"The Parks and Recreation Department is known for developing parks correctly," she said. "Hopefully they will take this approach with the equestrian area, and the concerns people have now won't be concerns."

Another potential problem discussed was that the "even open space" area might be used for inappropriate purposes, such as loud parties. This is an open area that could be used for special events or camping. The department said the area would be properly patrolled by a park ranger, or the Columbia Police Department if necessary.

For the most part, however, attendees said they were happy with the overall plan despite some concerns. Hoppe said she is enthused about the nature area that is to be included in the park, another favorite of the public.

Many people are also looking forward to the indoor ice rink, a long anticipated addition to Columbia, as there hasn't been an ice rink in the city since the late '70s.

"I can't wait to put my skates back on," Hoppe said, though she said she does not expect the ice rink to open any time soon.

She said the plan looks promising but needs to be finalized.

"It's still a rough concept, and there are some details that need to be worked out," Hoppe said.

Another public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 23 at the ARC, 1701 W. Ash St. A public survey is also available on the department's Web site, for those who cannot attend the meeting.

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Mike Griggs September 16, 2009 | 8:18 a.m.

In order to clarify the remote control airplane situation, first of all it is against the City Ordinances to fly remote control planes in any parks, except with the permission of the Director. Many, many years ago, Cosmo Park was an approved site where remote control or radio control (RC) airplane operators could fly their planes. This was permitted as Cosmo used to be the City's airport and it was a perfect site for this activity. However, as soccer, baseball, and softball fields were added, the park became too congested. RC operators were allowed to use Cosmo-Bethel Park as the development in and around this park, including the high school and middle school, did not exist. Again, as development started to occur, Cosmo-Bethel was not suitable for these planes.

Park staff worked with several RC operators and even helped grade and seed an area near the old landfill where RC operators could practice their trade. Over time, the RC Club that the department worked with dissolved and I'm not sure what happened to that site.

Would the P&R Department consider a one time permit for a special event in order to allow RC operators a day in the park? Perhaps, but so far, there has not been any requests. This was the first request for a RC airplane site in several years.

Park staff has worked closely with the local hobby shops and has assisted with the construction of a RC dirt track in Cosmo Park. The department is not opposed to RC vehicles, just those that present a liability to other users.

As we begin this planning process for the regional park, all requests will be considered and noted in the document. If you wish to complete a survey on what you would like to see in the park, you may do so at our next meeting, Sept 23, 6:00 pm at the ARC, or fill one out on our website at the following address:

Information on the regional park planning process and survey is posted under "Announcements"

(Report Comment)
Clara Allen September 16, 2009 | 8:32 a.m.

Seems to me that the reality that horses were a big part of the Gans Creek Recreational area when it was privately owned would be an indicator that horses are not an inappropriate part of the plan. And since there won't be cattle which there certainly were in the past - horses should pose even less of an issue.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock September 16, 2009 | 8:47 a.m.

They know full well that horses are not an environment concern in this location. Most buffers over 30ft will control the waste. With only 13 acres I doubt many people show up to ride there limiting any waste. Personally I doubt I would even hook up my trailer and saddle my horse to go ride on 13 acres.

(Report Comment)

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