West Ash Neighborhood Association boosts community involvement

Saturday, June 26, 2010 | 4:47 p.m. CDT; updated 10:39 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 28, 2010
Shannon Canfield gestures to members of the West Ash Neighborhood Association on Thursday at Again Street Park. Canfield took suggestions for potential subcommittees to try and sort out the number and area of focus for each committee.

COLUMBIA — The West Ash Street neighborhood, nestled northwest of downtown Columbia, includes a diverse group of residents who like to bike, walk and enjoy the outdoors. 

The neighborhood’s wide streets accommodate the activities of residents, and its location caters to those with busy lifestyles. The neighbors are a social lot. You'll often find them strolling up and down the roads, walking dogs or playing softball at the nearby Again Street Park.



President Carol Rogers

Vice President Julia Ames

Secretary/Treasurer Shannon Canfield

Interested in forming your own neighborhood association? The city has a website that outlines the process.

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“I told myself I had to live in a place where I could walk to the grocery store, walk to the hardware store and walk to the library, and I found it," said Allison Vaughn, a West Ash resident.

Now the folks who live in the West Ash area have another feature to brag about: They are one of the city's newest neighborhood associations.

Most buildings in the neighborhood are residential, and the median home value is estimated at $115,000, according to Neighborhood Scout. The homes are mostly single-family dwellings, but there are a few apartment buildings that cater to college students and others.

Resident Greg Baka said West Ash is a very safe neighborhood to live in, but others who live closer to Again Street Park said they are sometimes uneasy about what appear to be drug deals taking place in the park.

West Ash has no Neighborhood Watch Program, but residents are talking about forming one.

“The area does have problems that need to be addressed,” said Officer Gamal Castile of the Columbia Police Department, who regularly patrols the neighborhood. “There is a noticeable difference between activity during the daytime and during the nighttime."

Although the neighborhood juggles a few problems with crime and people speeding down the streets, Baka said the area is improving.

“Over the past 10 years, the neighborhood has shifted,” Baka said. “The houses have been rejuvenated with nice yards and landscaping.”

With the shift in household upkeep came an eagerness to continue to improve the neighborhood. After a few years of discussion, neighbors finally formed an association. It was officially approved at Monday night's City Council meeting.

The West Ash Neighborhood Association was created by a core group of area residents who felt it would be a way to have a strong voice in the community and give people an opportunity to come together.

“Strong neighborhoods make a proactive city,” said association President Carol Rogers, who has lived in the area for 30 years.

Forty to 50 people attended the first neighborhood meeting on May 18, said Baka, who had a large role in creating the association.

Residents raised a number of issues they think need attention. For example, they're concerned about a plan by the city to block left turns onto Anderson Avenue, which would force traffic from Columbia Montessori School through the neighborhood.

They also talked about the possibility of the city controlling mosquitoes without using chemicals, about the desire for speed bumps on Hirth Avenue and about painting a crosswalk on West Broadway.

“There are no urgent issues,” Rogers said. “The purpose of (the association) is to make the neighborhood stronger.”

Elections for office positions also took place at the first meeting. Rogers was pleased to be named president.

“I was one of the people who had lived in the neighborhood the longest,” she said. “Plus I love this neighborhood.”

The association’s second meeting took place Thursday night. Members were broken into committees to pinpoint where the larger group needs to focus its attention.

The neighborhood has plans for social events as well. Outdoor movie nights have already taken place, and plans for block parties with potluck food and hikes around the neighborhood are in the making, Baka said.

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