COLUMBIA — Nature trails, native plant restoration and unaltered habitats were among the top priorities identified during a planning meeting for Bonnie View Park.
The Parks and Recreations Department held the event at the Activity and Recreation Center on Wednesday evening to solicit public input for the park.
Meeting attendees were allowed to select their top six priorities for the park from a list compiled from suggestions made by citizens at the meeting.
Most public opinion focused on emphasizing the park's natural qualities and keeping sound and light pollution from the park to a minimum.
"I'd like them to keep it as natural as possible and maybe just add trails and a nature center because that area is so unique with its topography," said Jan Benson, who lives on Rollins Road near the park. "Some of the land there hasn't been touched since the Civil War."
"There are parks all over the city with playgrounds and shelters, but we don't have any other nature center or outdoor classroom for kids to come to," Benson added.
Karlan Seville, 43, had similar sentiments.
"It's very important to our family that it remain natural. We use the property a lot just for nature hikes," she said.
Seville also said she would like the park to include a buffer zone where it is adjacent to residences. Seville lives on West Port Drive, which borders the park property.
Many others who attended the meeting agreed with the need to keep the park separate from the surrounding neighborhoods. "No practice fields" and "no internal roads" were among the top priorities in the vote. Attendees also expressed interest in a small nature center, an outdoor classroom, access trails and a rain garden.
Wednesday's meeting was just the first step in the planning phase for Bonnie View Park. Two years of planning went into the property several years ago, but in 2004 the City Council voted to leave the plan until a decision was reached about the possible extension of Cunningham Road. In 2008, the council voted to eliminate the extension of Cunningham Road from the city's Major Roadway Plan.
Because of the time elapsed since the initial planning, the original plans needed to be re-evaluated.
"The decision has been made to start the process completely from scratch," Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said. "So, as a staff, we've committed to do this like we would do any of our other projects. We're going to back all the way up and go through the whole process, and, hopefully, when it's all said and done, we have a product that the entire community can be happy with, that we can all be proud of, and ultimately results in an extremely high-quality park for the city of Columbia."
The parks department plans to continue gathering public input through meetings and a questionnaire that will be added to the department's Web site. They intend to have a draft of a master plan soon after the first of the year.
The council has already approved $300,000 for phase one of the park's development. Residents can sign up for e-mail updates about the park on the department's Web site.