COLUMBIA — Paul Wallace leaned against his deck looking at the sloping green forest that leads to the two-lot private property adjacent to his house. He hopes to see the land go to use, but not for himself.
Wallace is thinking of his East Campus neighbors and expanding what used to be Rockhill Park.
The property is contiguous to the newly renamed Clyde Wilson Memorial Park. Wilson was a longtime resident of the East Area Campus Neighborhood, he founded the MU department of anthropology and served on the city council and as mayor of Columbia.
Gudrun Parmentier a retired travel agent, owns the property, so her name has been adopted as a moniker for the land. Recently, she withdrew the land from the market, putting off any potential sale for at least a year.
Wallace said Parmentier agreed to provide a written statement giving first right of refusal to the East Campus Neighborhood Association for a year. This means Parmentier will enter private negotiations with the neighborhood association. If the group can raise enough funds to purchase the land, the two-lot property will be added to the park.
The neighborhood association has until July 11, 2011, to raise the money. If they don't, the land will be up for sale to any third parties, including developers.
The neighborhood association proposed adding Parmentier land to the Clyde Wilson Memorial Park in April.
The cost of the property is roughly $135,000.
"First of all we'll raise as much as we can, then we'll see what the city can do, then we'll see what Gudrun can do," Wallace explained. "We're trying to get as many people as possible to donate small sums. We hope Gudrun can get some kind of tax write-off. She's looking in to that now."
The neighborhood association expressed interest in fundraising efforts, but residents are still deliberating the means by which they can donate. Wallace and his wife, as well as other residents, already pledged an amount. They also hope to set up a fund with the city to collect money from donors.
At a July 6 meeting, several avenues of fundraising were explored:
- involving Pennies for the Park, a program centered on Lee Elementary School children and their arts.
- hosting a street party to bring together neighbors and other people who are interested in donating (perhaps in honor of the recent renaming).
- asking the fraternities and sororities situated on East Campus to arrange fundraising activities.
"We're not wealthy people over here, so raising money won't be easy," resident Betty Wilson said. She and Clyde Wilson were married for 52 years before he died in March 2010.
Wilson is against a developer purchasing the land, so she hopes the neighborhood association's negotiations with Parmentier go well. Her husband was also an advocate for land and energy conservation. While serving on the council and then as mayor, he was a proponent of the trails system too.
"I do think (the lots) would enhance the park and preserve the residential integrity of the neighborhood," Wilson said. "Gudrun was a longtime loyal member of the ECNA (East Campus Neighborhood Association). She shared our values and it would certainly be nice if we could, in some way, connect those two lots to the park and preserve them, keep it park land rather than duplexes or something like that."
Back at Wallace's home on Taylor Street, he walked down the shaded gravel road to Parmentier land. He is also opposed to a developer purchasing the area.
Building residential homes on the property would necessitate building another road, something Wallace finds discomforting.
"To build a road here really makes no sense in any environmental situation," he said. "It would be a big series of differences if a road could be put in here. It would be a formidable building project and as far as we're concerned, (this area) is fully developed. We want to keep it in its natural state. Columbia has a reputation for being green, and we want to enhance it."
He turned around. "But anything's possible with developers."
"We're optimistic these other issues can be worked out since there's good will on both sides," Wallace added. "We hope the other people of the area who feel strongly about parks will contribute."