Urban ecology project ties into MKT trail

Monday, September 27, 2010 | 12:43 p.m. CDT; updated 9:07 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 29, 2010

COLUMBIA — The grounds of an abandoned waste-water treatment facility seem like an unusual location for a nature trail — but 3M and Columbia are rewriting the rules.

The Columbia 3M plant is working with the city on the 3M Urban Ecology Restoration Project that includes a new trail that would parallel the existing MKT Nature/Fitness Trail.

If you go

WHAT: Columbia Parks and Recreation hosts an interested parties meeting about the 3M Urban Ecology Restoration Project between the MKT trail heads at Forum and Stadium boulevards.

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Activity and Recreation Center, 1701 W. Ash St.

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The trail is designed to reclaim and restore an environmentally degraded forest corridor between the trail heads at Stadium and Forum boulevards. The 8-foot-wide, quarter-mile, gravel trail will pass two abandoned digestor sites – both remnants of the abandoned sewer plant.

Bill Moore, plant manager of the Columbia 3M, presented a $40,000 check to the city at the City Council meeting Monday, Sept. 20.

“The goals of the project are to provide access to natural areas, improve biodiversity and provide volunteer opportunities for people in the community,” Moore said.

The project will accomplish these goals by creating new wetland habitat, and planting native bottomland trees — a blend of sycamores, oaks, hickories and redbuds. The city is providing a handicapped accessible trail to the area as well, Moore said. These are no small tasks, considering the trail will be built on a low-lying, marshy area.

Brett O’Brien, natural resource supervisor for Columbia Parks and Recreation, said the 25 acres qualifies as a degraded site for a few reasons.

“There’s a lot of rubble from the sewer treatment plant, and a lot of useless debris that can’t really be used for recreational purposes,” he said. Some invasive plant species occupy the area as well, O’Brien said.

The proposed site is located on a “riparian forest corridor," or forest along a riverbank. In its present state, the site is susceptible to storm-water runoff, something the project intends to address.

“The city is designing the area so that it provides a buffer to help protect Hinkson Creek during large storm water events,” Moore said.

In addition, trees will be used to combat the ill effects of runoff. Trees will be planted throughout the 25 acres to catch some of the storm water, O’Brien said. Tree growth will be instrumental in reclaiming some of the habitat.

“There’s a huge stormwater component of this project,” O’Brien said.

 As for the ruins of the sewer plant, most of the dilapidated buildings are unusable. But O’Brien said the pump house building has some potential.

“The pump house is still there,” he said. “We might be able to use it as an observation platform.”

The trail project, slated to begin over the next year, is volunteer-oriented. The city and 3M plans to collaborate with local TreeKeepers volunteers and the Columbia Aquatic Restoration Project, O’Brien said.

Moore expects to see some of the 3M employees getting involved, as they have with past projects.

“Some of the employees will volunteer to help with the planting,” Moore said. “We hope to get a bunch of people out there.”

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