East Campus residents gather in support of open spaces

Thursday, October 14, 2010 | 12:15 p.m. CDT; updated 10:07 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 16, 2011

COLUMBIA — Jim Wilson and Gordon McGune remember the day the bulldozers arrived.

As children growing up in East Campus, Wilson and McGune played football and baseball in the open field where Hawthorne Apartments now stands.

McGune said he remembered what they thought as kids when they saw the construction.

"They're taking our ball field," he said.

In retrospect, the construction of Hawthorne Apartments is what "galvanized our neighborhood," Wilson said.

"It started the East Campus Neighborhood Association and launched my father's (Clyde Wilson) local political career," he said.

The neighborhood association held a fundraiser Sunday, to purchase more land for the recently renamed Clyde Wilson Memorial Park.

The funds will be collected by The Community Foundation of Central Missouri as tax-deductible donations, according to the association's brochure. The goal is to raise $60,000 by July 2011.

The existing park includes 9.2 acres and has entrances at Rockhill Road, Wilson Avenue and Rollins Street. The proposed land acquisition, which extends from the end of Taylor Street to the north boundary of the park, would add 1.2 acres of land to the park, according to the association's brochure.

East Campus has traditionally been protective of the park and its open spaces. Many long-time residents said they felt the neighborhood hadn't changed much in the last few decades, which was largely due to preservation efforts.

The neighborhood's proximity to campus makes it a favorable spot for student housing, which also makes it a magnet for the development of apartment units.

This would "affect property values and peace and quiet," Wilson said.

Wilson cited his childhood as another reason to preserve the area.

"Playing in the woods developed our minds and built our characters," he said. Although he now lives in Phoenix, Wilson said he has strong ties to the neighborhood. At the fundraiser, he brought out a "fossil" he discovered in the area as a child.

"It would only take someone half an hour to destroy what Mother Nature took 350 million years to create," he said.

For more information about preserving Clyde Wilson Memorial Park, you can e-mail Roger Still.

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