COLUMBIA — Dozens of residents from the East Pointe subdivision gathered Thursday evening to voice opposition to a proposed trail route that would connect the Grindstone Nature Area to McGuire Boulevard east of U.S. 63.
The route primarily runs through flatlands along Grindstone Creek and was developed by Allstate Consultants, which also studied various alternative options. The route that Allstate and Parks and Recreation says is the strongest option would cut through at least two privately-owned properties off Bluff Pointe Drive.
Jim Baker, who owns one of the properties that would be directly impacted, said the reason he moved to the neighborhood was to have a secluded property with a wooded backyard.
He and other residents have already met with an attorney that specializes in eminent domain.
"No matter what they pay, it will destroy value. This is a public road through my backyard," Baker said. "I will fight it, but they are going to beat me because I don't have the money to fight it all the way, and they can wait me out, and ultimately they will win."
"Are they (the City Council) really going to force something that this many people don't want?" Baker asked.
Cindy Smith, the secretary of the East Pointe Property Owners Association, came out to express her concerns about the trail route.
"They are my neighbors, and I don't appreciate the use of eminent domain," she said.
Many other residents of the East Pointe community also showed up to express their frustration with the proposal.
Sixth Ward City Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said she has been working with local residents for the past two years as the route has been under study. She also voiced concerns.
"I'm not in favor of the proposed route," she said. "In general, I'm in favor of trails, but it's the nuances that matter."
Carl Christopher moved to a house off Bluff Pointe Drive a month ago for its secluded location.
"The privacy is amazing," Christopher said. "I just spent a lot of money for that privacy, and I don't want to give it up."
"It doesn't appear to be a destination or a starting point. Who's gonna use it? Who is it for?" Christopher said.
In addition to the East Pointe residents who were against the proposed trail route, several MU students enrolled in a parks management course attended the meeting Thursday night. Many of them were in favor of the trail.
The parks management class is taught by Mike Griggs, assistant director of the Parks and Recreation Department. Griggs also supports the proposed route.
Griggs said the proposed trail could also serve as a "quasi-maintenance route" for existing sewer lines that also run near Grindstone Creek.
Previously, residents of the East Pointe subdivision proposed an alternative route that would bypass the neighborhood and cut through more of the Henry Jackson Waters and C.B. Moss Memorial Wildlife Area. Allstate Consultants studied the alternative route but were concerned the route would involve significantly more elevation change, and complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act would be a challenge.
On Thursday, John Holmes of Allstate said the proposal by the residents would require the construction of retaining walls or significant grading in order to make the trail more accessible. These costs would be offset somewhat because the alternative route would require the construction of fewer bridges.
Allstate determined the alternative route would discourage more commuters from using it because it would have longer, steeper slopes, Holmes said. This route would also require the destruction of large tracts of forests.
After the meeting room cleared out Thursday, City Park Development Superintendent Mike Snyder said he was pleased with the large turnout and expression of community opinion.
"We had a lot of really good input and will be interested to read the comments, compile them and move forward with the process," Snyder said.
Snyder said the public comment cards that attendees filled out would be made public on the city website early next week.
The proposal will be submitted to the parks commission and possibly other city commissions that would hold public hearings.
Ultimately, the final decision to approve a specific route and move forward with construction rests with the council.
Supervising editor is Alison Matas.