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 JKarlUSMC@aol.com.