COLUMBIA — Despite a recent funding scare, the $3.1 million Hominy Branch Trail is proceeding as planned with a target completion date of summer 2010.
The 2.5-mile trail along Hominy Branch Creek is divided into two phases. Phase 1 extends from Green Valley Drive, a quiet street near Stephens Lake Park on East Broadway, to Columbia's Woodridge neighborhood. Phase 2 begins at Woodridge and connects to a private trail at The Links at Columbia apartment complex on Clark Lane.
Even though the majority of the trail will run through wooded areas, there will be underpasses at U.S. 63, East Broadway and Interstate 70.
The trail will look like a "pretty woodland area" resembling the MKT Trail, and people on the trail will not be able see houses through the trees except in winter, Ted Curtis of GetAbout Columbia said.
People living in neighborhoods around Hominy Branch Creek will be able to easily access the trail.
Woodridge residents will be able to access the trail from a path near the intersection of Lansing Avenue and Woodridge Drive.
"The trail connects neighborhoods that should be connected to the downtown area," Curtis said. "Neighborhoods north of 70 and east of 63 have no trails, so this gives them access to a trail system."
There will be signs and markers throughout the trail, but it takes a generally direct route from beginning to end, Curtis said.
Curtis said the route is being designed as a hybrid trail, which would provide a paved surface 10 feet wide. A 3-foot-wide gravel path will only be placed on flat sections of the trail because gravel tends to wash out on hillsides.
However, the Columbia City Council still has the final say on what surface material will be used on the trail.
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said when the design is finished, it will go before the council to be approved.
Ultimately, his decision will be based on "how the people in the area want it" and also which material will be best at preserving the natural area.
"We have to make a decision whether to put gravel down, which will require maintenance over time or have a paved surface which destroys more of the sensitive areas we are trying to provide access to," Skala said. "Or a combination of both."
There are also plans to build another sewer line with the trail.
There is currently one sewer line along the trail, but because of growth in the area, another line will be put in as the trail is being built, Curtis said.
The sewer line is budgeted at $2.7 million, said Steve Hunt, the city's environmental services manager.
After the city received a letter from the Missouri Department of Transportation in August that explained the Federal Highway Administration could possibly be taking back $461,751 in money for the trail, planners feared the project would stall while other funding was identified.
City planners were relieved last week to hear that the Missouri Department of Transportation was offering assurances it would provide the money.
"It was under attack, and I'm glad it survived," Ted Curtis said in a previous Missourian report.
Planners with the city's Park and Recreation Department will begin the process of acquiring land and intend to begin building as soon as the trail has finished being designed.
John Godfrey and his wife, Barb Godfrey, have lived on Woodridge Drive for 28 years, and they are looking forward to walking on the trail once it is finished.
"It's good to get out in nature and exercise," Godfrey said.
Judy Lammers, who lives on Lansing Avenue, is trying to sell the house she’s lived in for 20 years and expressed concern about the trail that will run directly behind her home. She worries about people coming and going at all hours making noise and that too many people will be parking on the street to use the trail.
"It's been a nice, peaceful neighborhood," Lammers said. "But I have a feeling it will change."
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said some people will inevitably be unhappy with the placement of the trail. He said his inclination is to support the project, and he wants to assure people that they will not be losing their privacy and will probably be increasing their property value.
Skala pointed out that when the MKT Trail was proposed there were objections but people who live in that area now find it desirable.
"People will lose a little, but they will gain as well," Skala said.
Cedar Lane resident Dorthy Grimes, 84, has lived in her home for more than 20 years. When she was younger, she would periodically mow a 3-foot path about four or five lots in length and walk her cat and dog down by the creek.
She said she will walk on the trail but added, "At my age, I will only walk a little."
Grimes said she is not concerned about any potential disturbances occurring due to the trail.
"It's not a place to party," Grimes said. "It's a trail."