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.
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.