Sports fields would be top priority at southeast Columbia parks

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | 5:34 p.m. CDT; updated 7:45 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The latest Southeast Regional Park plan replaces a 17-acre equestrian area with natural open space. Reactions to the equestrian area had been divided, with some respondents wanting it larger and others opposed because of waste and water concerns.

COLUMBIA – If Proposition 1, the proposed extension of a one-eighth-cent parks sales tax, passes on Nov. 2, the city would spend about $1.75 million to begin the first phase of development at Gans Creek Recreation Area and A. Perry Philips Park.

The parks tax would generate about $12 million for parks projects over the next five years. The priority at the Gans and Philips properties, which together make up what ultimately will become a southeast regional park, is to make them suitable for soccer and other youth sports, park services manager Mike Griggs said.

"The goal is to have ... a Cosmo Park on the southeast side of town," he said.

Developments over the next five years at the southeast park would be part of the first phase of development called for in the city's master plan for the properties.

There are several major projects that need to happen, though, before the city can develop sports fields, said Mike Hood, director of the Parks and Recreation Department. Those include roads, parking lots and restrooms. Those projects also would serve to get the new parkland, which now is largely open space and forests, open to the public.

Longer-term plans call for five or six full-size soccer fields designed to be flexible so that they also could be used for football, lacrosse and baseball. Hood said it probably would be at least three years before those are done. If the ballot issue passes, the department will have to decide with the City Council which park projects get done first.

Developing five or six fields at the southeast park would bring the total number of full-size fields in Columbia to between 14 and 20 when combined with those in other parks, such as Cosmopolitan Park. That would make the city eligible to bid for regional youth sports tournaments.

The city has owned the Philips and Gans properties for years. In 2004, it bought 77 acres of the Philips area from the former E.M. Philips farm for $1.3 million, according to the city's website. Bristol Lake Investments donated the 63-acre lake area in 2005. Philips Lake is open to the public for fishing and boating.

The city bought the 320-acre Gans Recreation Area property from the Crane family in 2007 for about $8 million, according to a previous Missourian report. The Cranes owned Lofty Cliff Farm, which was established in 1877.

Missourian reporter Sarah Horn contributed to this report.

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