COLUMBIA — The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department will ask the Columbia City Council to approve plans for a $35,000 reconstruction on Clyde Wilson Memorial Park, formerly Rockhill Park. The original proposal made to the public included plans to rebuild five bridges in the park, but Boy Scout Adam Stansfield, 16, and others already rebuilt one without city funding.
The original plan was presented to community members last October. Work was tentatively scheduled to start in January, but the parks department is not going to start work until it has city approval.
The parks department is waiting for the legal agreement between MU and the city to be finalized before presenting to the council.
"We can't take it to the council until the MU paperwork goes through," Toney Lowery, senior park planner, said.
Karlan Seville, MU campus facilities communications manager, said the agreement should be completed by this week.
The only way for the city to get to the bridges and trails is through university property.
"None of this is really hard. It's the access to the bridges that is difficult," Lowery said. "Just getting the materials down there is going to be the difficult part of the job."
Help from a Boy Scout
Stansfield supervised the rebuild of the bridge next to the Rockhill Road entrance as his Eagle Scout project. Scouts must complete a number of tasks in order to be eligible to become an Eagle Scout.
He estimated that he made 150 trips back and forth bringing building material to the site, and the group — his troop and students from the St. Thomas More Newman Center — made 500 trips.
"We just put them on our backs and carried them down there," Stansfield said. "It was a lot of people making a lot of trips."
The guidelines for completing the Eagle Scout project include acquiring donations. Stansfield received $900 in donations from the community, $350 worth of lumber from Boone County Lumber Company and more than $1000 worth of steel I-beams from J. Louis Crum Corporation.
"I walked in, I shook hands, looked them in the eye, acted like I knew what I was doing and then asked for parts," Stansfield said.
He chose to rebuild the bridge because he ventures into the park frequently to go onto the MU campus. The disintegration of the bridge drew his attention during his trips.
"It's near my house and breaking down, and it's going to get washed away one of these days, and it seemed like a good thing to do," Stansfield said.
Issues in the park
Other maintenance projects in the park include:
- Trail maintenance.
- Trail reconstruction.
- Trail replacement.
- Bench replacement.
East Campus Neighborhood Association member Janet Hammen said that the neighborhood in general wants the park to remain natural.
"Maintaining, to me, means a safe walking environment — not changing it into something other than it is," Hammen said.
She, along with City Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe and other members of the neighborhood, took a walk with Lowery and others from the parks department in the park to point out some of the planned changes.
"You can point at a map all you want, but it's different when you walk around down there," Lowery said.
Hammen said she liked the plans that the parks department discussed with members of the neighborhood on the walk.
"I'm all for it," Hammen said. "We thought what Parks and Recreation was doing was terrific. There is no substitute for getting out in the park."
One of the main issues inside the park is drainage along the trails. Because the walkways are mostly dirt, when rainwater gathers, the trails turn to mud and become difficult to walk along.
"If the trail drained better, it wouldn't be so muddy," Hammen said.
Hammen said that the unique appeal of the park is that it has been kept so natural.
"This is one of the least developed parks," Hammen said. "It is a very natural park, and everyone wants it to stay in a natural state."
The park has not had construction in a number of years, Hoppe said.
"It's sort of been on the back burner for a while to improve the bridges and the trails," Hoppe said.
Funding the reconstruction
Hoppe said that this reconstruction plan is comparatively low-cost to other reconstrution plans for parks in Columbia.
"This is very minor in terms of cost, but in terms of improvement it's essential,"Hoppe said.
Lowery said that one way the city is able to afford this reconstruction is because it has its own construction crew.
Even with the low construction cost and one bridge completed, Lowery is concerned about having enough money for the project.
"Hopefully the money will be enough," Lowery said. "We are rehabbing the trails. Some places are looking a little poor."
Hoppe said the council has been discussing this project for a while now and thinks that the city shouldn't have opposition.
One of MU's main requests is that work does not start on the park until after the spring semester has ended.
When asked when he would like to see work start on the park, Lowery asked, "When's the last day of school?"
Lowery would like to see construction start on the park the Monday after graduation, May 16.