Equestrians will have to find a new place to ride if City Council approves the Parks and Recreation Department's new plan for the Southeast Regional Park.
The Parks and Recreation Commission approved scrapping the idea of using 17 acres for an equestrian area during its meeting Thursday. Instead, the new plan will use the space for a natural preservation area.
One of the main issues surrounding the plan is how to manage water runoff from parking lots and buildings. It's difficult to manage runoff that's touched horse manure "due to the wide open and dispersed nature of the activity," according to the department's proposal presented at the Feb. 1 City Council meeting. The proposal also noted the area has sinkholes where the runoff could penetrate the ground.
Nineteen residents gathered to offer their input on the plan at the meeting. Six of them voiced their agreement in removing the equestrian area, but Richard Shanker asked for the area to be put back into the plan.
Shanker, a member of the Osage Group and the Columbia Audubon Society, disagreed with the department's assessment of how horses would impact the area.
"As soon as you use the 'd word' — development — it's going to cause problems," Shanker said. "To say a few horses riding on 17 acres is going to impact more than the hundreds of acres of ball fields, bathrooms, parking lots, in my opinion, is relatively naive."
Representatives from the the Columbia Audobon Society, Friends of Rock Bridge State Park, Missouri Parks Association and the Osage Group all voiced their support for the removal of the equestrian area during public comment.
The plan aims to coordinate the development of two parks totaling 460 acres in southeast Columbia. The plan requires the Planning and Zoning Commission's review before it goes before City Council for approval.