Parks and Recreation, City Council discuss plans for parks tax

Monday, November 29, 2010 | 11:21 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA— Earlier this month, Columbia voters approved the extension of the park sales tax. On Monday night, the Columbia City Council and the Parks and Recreation Department attended a work session where they discussed where the tax revenue would go.

What happened: Mike Hood, director of parks and recreation, presented a proposed five-year plan to council members.

Cost: During the next five years, the one-eighth-cent sales tax is expected to garner about $12 million for Columbia's parks.

Timetable: The proposed plan divides projects into four categories: land acquisition and annual park funding, new facility and park development, improvements to existing parks, and trails and greenbelts.

Improvements to existing parks were a strong selling point of the ballot initiative, and they are one of the first areas targeted on the proposed plan, Hood said. Budgeted at $2.975 million, the improvements section would be expected to be finished by 2015, with about eight of the 14 projects scheduled to be finished within the first four fiscal years. The Maplewood Barn is listed under the improvements section.

Projects: The five-year plan would be front-loaded with construction projects over a four-year fiscal period between 2011 and 2015, which would leave more room for land acquisition later on, Hood said. Most of the construction projects are listed under new facility and park development and improvements to existing parks.  

  • Tennis court renovations at Shepard Boulevard Park are the first to be completed according to the proposed plan. The Parks and Recreation Department will have to take money from maintenance funds later on if the courts are not improved immediately, Hood said.
  • Neighborhood parks: Completion of Barberry, Jay Dix and Strawn Road between 2013 and 2015. These projects are listed under new facility and park development. 

Hood said changes to Atkins Memorial Park, Gans Creek Recreation Area and the Grindstone Trail are the three major projects of the new plan.

  • Atkins Memorial Park: The plan includes a new baseball field, a concession stand and restrooms. There is a $75,000 grant in place for work to begin, and the plan budgets $850,000 in total for improvements. Hood said this was one of the department's three largest projects.
  • Gans Creek Recreation Area, Phase 1: This was another major project identified by the department. It would cost $1.75 million and is expected to be the most expensive of the new facilities and parks development section. The plan has work set to begin on the area in 2013.
  • Grindstone Trail: The third major project, because of its ties to the new IBM building, would be the Grindstone Trail. The trail is an important aspect early on in the five-year plan, Hood said. Work on the trail would be completed in two years, starting in 2011.

Comments: First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe voiced concern about front-loading the plan with construction. Both said land acquisition is more important because its value could increase over the next five years.

Mike Hood suggested that a committee be formed to "identify, evaluate and submit recommendations to the Park Commision regarding specific tracts of land being considered for possible acquisition."

What's next: The proposed plan now goes to the Parks and Recreation Commission. After, it will go to the City Council for consideration. The council plans to discuss the suggested land acquisition committee at an upcoming council meeting.

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