COLUMBIA — Picnic tables underneath the shelter at the Twin Lakes Recreation Area were packed with people and their pooches Thursday night.
The crowd of about 30 gathered to voice ideas and concerns regarding future park projects that would happen in the next five years if Proposition 1 — a ballot issue that would extend for five years a one-eighth-cent park sales tax — passes Nov. 2.
On Nov. 2, Columbia voters will see this question on their ballots:
Shall the municipality of Columbia, Missouri impose a sales tax of one-eighth of one percent, for five (5) years, for the purpose of providing funding for local parks for the municipality?
The current one-fourth of one percent local parks sales tax is scheduled to be reduced to one-eighth of one percent on March 31, 2011. Approval of this proposition would keep the local parks sales tax rate at one-fourth of one percent for an additional five (5) years.
The City intends to use this sales tax to fund projects in the City’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan including renovations and improvements to existing parks, development of neighborhood and community parks, development of trails and greenbelts, and the acquisition of land for parks, trails, greenbelts and open space preservation.
With a proposed budget of $250,000, the city hopes to upgrade both the dog park and Little Mates Cove, a water play area for younger children. Ideas include:
- Building a birthday party shelter and smaller shaded areas around Little Mates Cove.
- Updating plumbing and drainage systems at the 20-year-old swimming facility and sandblasting and painting.
- Developing the landscape around the lake to improve water quality.
- Adding lights to the dog park.
- Installing wash stations at the dog park so pet owners can clean off their furry — and occasionally muddy — friends.
- Making improvements to the turf inside the dog park area.
Senior Park Planner Mike Snyder said the projects will lack funding if the ballot issue fails. If voters approve it, he said, he is unsure where Twin Lakes would fall on the city's list of priorities. Proposition 1 would generate a total of $12 million for park projects over five years.
“This isn’t something we’ll see happening overnight,” Snyder said.
“I think there is a good chance this will occur early in the five-year period, rather than later,” said Mike Hood, parks and recreation director. “I can’t really pin it down better than that.”
The city and park users discussed a few main issues: accessibility to the park and ways to improve the turf, lighting, and maintenance of the park, with special attention given to picking up dog droppings.
Several residents said the dog park is difficult to navigate for people who use wheelchairs, walkers or canes. Becky Alpert said she would like to see a path leading from the parking lot to the first bench in the park. She cautioned against using gravel because it’s hard to push a walker on an uneven surface.
Steve Saitta, supervisor of park development, said a concrete pathway would be another optionHe said it would last longest and be the easiest to maintain.
Renee Simmons mentioned the possibility of a mulch path because mulch is abundant and easy on dogs' paws, but Saitta said it would be far too difficult to maintain.
“This whole process is kind of a balancing act,” Snyder said of the differing opinions.
“The good thing about a master plan like this is it’s a master plan that’s a continual work in progress,” Saitta said, adding that projects probably will be completed on a trial-and-error basis and park users will often be asked for input.
The condition of turf at Twin Lakes was also discussed.
“It’s been hard to grow grass; harder than we thought it would be with such sandy soil,” Saiita said.
He asked residents if they would want a paved loop around the park, like the one at the Garth Nature Area dog park, so they could navigate around muddy patches. There seemed to be little support for it.
“I would be strongly disappointed if we ended up paving that area,” Bob Collins said, arguing it would take away from the natural appeal of the park.
Residents also spoke in support of a volunteer program to help keep Columbia dog parks clean.
Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley asked if residents would favor the city setting up a collection post — similar to the one at Bethel Park that collects money for trout — so people can voluntarily contribute to fund small projects and maintenance at the dog parks.
The crowd was supportive.
Hood said he was pleased with the turnout of the meeting and the variety of input from people who care about the park.
“It’s pretty obvious that there was a multitude of interests,” he said. “There’s always going to be some concerns. Some things we can address, some things we can’t … These are the type people we want to work with to create the final plan.”