J. KARL MILLER: Bikers and dog owners should leave Bonnie View trails alone

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | 1:36 p.m. CDT

I happen to like dogs as I do most members of the animal kingdom — there was obviously a reason for adding their numbers to the planet's denizens. Also, while I am not enamored of the antics and practices of several of their riders, I hold no ill will against bicycles and other non-motorized transport.

As I am neither a dog walker, bicyclist nor bird watcher, I don't have a dog in the fight over trails through the 113-acre Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary, including the Columbia Audubon Society's 23 acres. Nevertheless, it accords me a measure of objectivity not readily apparent among the proponents of both sides.

As approved in March, the master plan for this city park property calls for it to be maintained in as near its natural state as possible to include native flower and prairie grass restoration. As I am led to believe, that was the intent of the Russell family in its generous 1999 donation of this pristine acreage to the city.

As dictated by standard nationwide policy, dogs are not permitted in nature sanctuaries. However, a compromise offered by Councilman Daryl Dudley allowed leashed dogs in the area north of Rollins Road and along a paved bike path along the east side of Bonnie View. By the way, that 8-foot bicycle trail from Rollins to the Weaver Road stub at Bray reflected a compromise as well.

The current sticky wicket is the resurrection of a once-rejected proposal to construct a bicycle route from the Weaver stub across the southern Bonnie View line through the Audubon property and continue through the Dublin Park riparian corridor. The absolute absurdity of an 8-foot concrete bike path with a 30-foot right of way slicing through the proposed tall prairie grass habitat of the Audubon sanctuary should be obvious even to cyclists.

This Scott's Branch Trail is not only intrusive and destructive to nature, but also prohibitively costly (It's estimated to cost $780,000). This routing requires a bridge be built and severely affects the creek habitat with increased storm water runoff. It is also unnecessary.

Columbia is graced by two trail systems. The first is administered by GetAbout Columbia, primarily for bike and pedestrian transport and, secondarily, for recreation. The other, administered by Columbia Parks and Recreation, is focused on recreation.

Admittedly, the trail systems cannot satisfy the desires and perceived needs of everyone, but it might be wise to remember this fundamental truth: It is impossible to predict success with any certainty; however, failure is guaranteed by trying to please everyone. The GetAbout Columbia map is a wise buy for those looking for the quickest and safest routes across Columbia — those marked as green obviate the need to run Scott's Trail Branch through the Audubon property.

Finally, as it has been so eloquently and truthfully pointed out by others, there are 65 other parks with nearly 3,000 acres — all of which permit dogs on leashes and four of which allow dogs to romp leashless. Additionally, there are more than 125 miles of bikeways, including striped bike lanes, streets with marked bike lanes and multi-use trails.

The city of Columbia has been endowed with a pristine and virtually unspoiled 113-acre plot of land upon which to restore and refurbish natural habitat for flora and fauna. I doubt that anyone's notion of a nature sanctuary includes intrusions of concrete slabs to be traversed by cyclists, runners, walkers and dogs. As to the latter, it has been my experience that neither the avian nor pedestrian of the wild animal kingdom tolerates graciously the presence of dogs in their realms.

To my thinking, permitting dogs in a portion of the nature sanctuary and the paved bicycle trail along the east boundary was a far greater compromise than necessary. It is time bikers, skateboarders and pedestrians show good faith by backing away from an area in which they are neither an asset nor welcome.

Bowing out gracefully by the bicycle crowd would be a positive gesture on their part — they have done little to endear themselves to the public in the recent past.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at

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Robin Nuttall May 4, 2011 | 3:27 p.m.

I do own a dog. I used to go to Grindstone Park years ago. Before the bridges, and before the Hinkson Creek Trail went in. During that time, you had to cross the creek to get to the center of the park. If the water was up, you got wet or stayed home. It had mowed trails from about 6' to 10' wide, and that was it. There was never trash. The trails ducked under thickly arched trees and wove through grasslands and woods filled with native plants and flowers.

Then the trail came in, and the 30' right of way was cleared. The deep caves of trees were gone, butchered. With the bridge, many more people used the park, but unfortunately many more people also littered. Now, the park is in danger from a lespedeza infestation which has come on strong since the construction of the bridges. Native forbs are being choked out. Mountain bikes have cut the trails to the point where they are often a muddy morass, which causes more run off. Too many dog owners completely ignore the law to pick up after our pets, so the sides of the trials are littered with feces. Other dog owners seem to feel that "off leash" also is license to be out of control, to not come when called, to rush up to people, cyclists and other dogs, welcome or not. With heavy metals (and giardia) in the stream, I no longer feel safe taking my dogs there except on lead. And with small dogs now, I have to be careful even about that because there is little attempt to control the dogs running loose.

I have to say that as a dog lover and an advocate for dogs in Columbia, I really have no problem with the Bonnie View property remaining off limits to dogs and bikes in those pristine areas. If I felt like Columbians were more responsible, if I felt they would pick up and truly keep their dogs on leash, I'd feel differently. But unfortunately they are not.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble May 4, 2011 | 4:14 p.m.

I'm a frequent cyclist, trail runner, and lover of dogs, but I completely agree with Mr. Miller. There is a time and a place for this type of traffic and its resulting disturbances, and this particular place has been defined as something else.

In this age of land grabbing and ugly, cookie-cutter commercial and mass-rental-residential developments around Columbia, we don't have many opportunities for areas to remain natural for their own sake. There is an inherent value to that, and it should be respected - especially when, as in this case, that intention was clearly put forth when the land was offered.

(@Robin - I appreciate your account of the "old" Grindstone area. I have only used it since the bridges & trail enhancements were put in, so I'm glad to have your perspective. Reminds me of my memories of the "old" Stephens Lake, which is quickly turning into a concrete-slathered amusement park.)

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