$20,000 grant to pay for signs at MKT environmental restoration project

Thursday, December 1, 2011 | 4:55 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Visitors to a city wetlands being developed along the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail will be guided by a series of signs with details about the natural environment.

The majority of $20,000 in federal funds going to the city Parks and Recreation Department will be used for signs at the 3M Urban Ecological Restoration Project, Mike Hood, director of Columbia Parks and Recreation, said.

The grant will provide for signs that are educational and informational that direct people and let them know what they can do and see, Hood said.

The signs will also explain the ecological project that aims to restore 20 acres of land connected to the MKT trail into a system of wetlands.

“The signs interpret the natural environment that the people are seeing — what is happening in the area, what type of habitat it is, the types of animals living there and how they’re using it,” Hood said.

The land being restored was part of a sewage treatment plant in the 1960s and 1970s. The area was cleared, and the land became an open field with sewer lagoons, which were closed in the late 1970s. Since then, the land has been a grassy field.

Through the ecological restoration project, native plants species will be planted and additional woodland on the property restored. An additional trail was added as well.

Hood said the signs are the last phase of construction, which should be finished next spring or summer.

“We’re creating this new habitat, and we’re inviting people to come onto the property, so we’re providing signs that direct them where to go and what they’re seeing,” Hood said.

The grant money will be used to manufacture and install informational signs on the property. Hood said this is fairly expensive because of the high-tech process used to develop the signs, which will include colored pictures.

The signs will be lower to the ground so that they are accessible.

Hood said there are similar signs in Columbia, including one at Flat Branch Park, where a sign explains rain gardens and their use in the control of stormwater runoff.

“The sign explains how it’s used, how it helps the environment and the resources that were used so that people understand what they’re seeing,” Hood said.

Funding for the grant comes from the Recreational Trails Program, a federally funded grant program for trail-related land acquisition, development or restoration, according to a state Department of Natural Resources news release. Ten additional trail projects in Missouri received grants.

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