Columbia parks department moves forward with Grindstone Creek trail plans

Friday, September 14, 2012 | 2:46 p.m. CDT
Columbia Parks and Recreation plans to construct a trail that would run along Grindstone Creek, connecting Grindstone Nature Area to MacGuire Boulevard. However, the trail would cut through the backyards of residents of Bluff Point Drive in the East Point subdivision. To construct some of these trails, the city would have to seize land through eminent domain.

COLUMBIA — Despite public opposition to a proposed trail along Grindstone Creek, the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department plans to move forward with its preferred route.

Park planners soon will recommend the Parks and Recreation Commission review the trail plan developed by Allstate Consultants and presented to the public, Park Development Superintendent Mike Snyder said.

The trail route would run along the creek and connect the Grindstone Nature Area to Maguire Boulevard east of U.S. 63. It would cut through multiple privately-owned properties in the East Pointe subdivision and would require the city use eminent domain to acquire some land.

East Pointe residents voiced opposition to the trail route at a public input meeting the department hosted Aug. 30.

Attendees filled out public comment cards that are available on the department's website. The survey will be available through Sept. 17 for more public comment, and the department will continue to review the results.

Snyder said the formal recommendation will come from Mike Hood, Parks and Recreation director, at the Oct. 18 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting in the Activity and Recreation Center. The commission will allow for public comment at the meeting.

"As far as I know, the recommended route hasn't changed. To build a trail through that area, we believe the best route is to follow the creek," Snyder said on Tuesday. 

According to a department summary of the public meeting, 63 residents met with parks officials and representatives from Allstate Consultants, the engineering firm that developed the route and studied a variety of alternative options.

Jim Baker, a resident of East Pointe, said he will continue to fight the route that goes across his property.

"It appears they are not listening to the public. These public meetings are just window dressing," Baker said on Wednesday.

Baker said he will continue to rally opposition to the trail and is planning to circulate petitions, contact members of the Columbia City Council and go door-to-door.

He said he will fight the use of eminent domain in the courts if necessary, but he isn't confident he can outspend or outlast the city.  

"My tax dollars pay for city attorneys. It is pretty tough to outspend our own tax dollars," Baker said. 

The trail project was included in the 2010 ballot proposal approved by voters to renew a one-eighth cent park sales tax that also included funding for improvements to existing trails and parks and land acquisition and preservation. The proposal passed with 64 percent approval.

The Grindstone trail project has a budget of $1.57 million and will require the construction of four bridges across Grindstone Creek, Snyder said.

After parks staff makes a formal recommendation to the commission, the commission will consider the proposal and provide for the opportunity for more public input before making its own recommendation to the City Council, which will have final approval before moving forward with trail construction, Snyder said. 

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe, who represents the East Pointe subdivision, attended the public meeting in August and said she was against the proposed route. Hoppe could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

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Bill Fisher September 13, 2012 | 8:07 p.m.

"It appears they are not listening to the public. These public meetings are just window dressing," Baker said on Wednesday.

They're listening to the public, just not the handful of homeowners who are being vocal. BUILD THE TRAIL!!

(Report Comment)
robert link September 14, 2012 | 6:13 a.m.

Are 64% of Columbians going to walk this trail? Do even 25% use any trail in the trail system? Eminent domain for a small number of users seems mighty aggressive. Take the trail up the unused road behind Hollywood Theater and through MFA property and connect with the donated Waters tract of land.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin September 14, 2012 | 9:02 a.m.

Goodness, "Bill Fisher." Looking at your past comments, you seem to have a real disdain for the public voice.

“"The association complained..." Yep, that about sums up neighborhood associations.”

Then these truly prescient remarks.

“Chill, Kirsten, the disabled-accessible cars are on the way. They first need profits before they'll have enough money to ...”

That was two years ago. Are the dinner train's accessible cars here yet?

“Tasers are safer for everyone--cops and suspects--than guns, batons or fists."

Yup -- this has certainly proven to be the case.

“Their loss, and the Missourian's gain. I won't pay for online news, and neither will 99% of the ...”

Oops! Click on your old comments, dude.

So where, pray tell, is all the public support for this trail you cite and the eminent domain it will require? I haven't read it or heard about it anywhere.

(Report Comment)
Mike Griggs September 14, 2012 | 10:05 a.m.

I'm afraid the journalist doesn't quite have all of the facts represented in the article. The Parks & Recreation Department is still in the process of gathering public input for the Grindstone Creek Trail Project. This trail was included in the list of projects the voters approved in the 2010 Park Sales Tax ballot issue. Staff feels that the standard public input process has to be undertaken in order to give everyone an opportunity to comment.

Currently, an online survey is being used to solicit comments from those that could not attend the meeting on August 30. This survey will be active until the end of the day on Monday Sept 17. Here's a link to the survey:

Once the survey is closed and results tabulated and published on the Grindstone Creek Capital Project webpage, the department is asking the Parks & Recreation Commission to schedule a Public Hearing at the October Commission meeting. At this meeting, the engineer will present his report on their recommended trail route and the Commission will listen to public comments. Similar meetings will be held at the Bike and Pedestrian Commission and the Energy and Environment Commission. Those dates have not been scheduled.

Regarding participation numbers, here's some facts from the ETC Citizen Survey that was conducted in 2010 (used to help develop projects for the 2010 Park Sales Tax ballot). The questions are used to summarize the topic and not to be considered as what was actually asked during the survey.

How many use parks? 87% of households have visited City of Columbia parks during the past year. This is significantly higher than the national benchmarking average of 72%.

What is used the most? The parks and recreation facilities that the highest percentage of households have used/visited during the past 12 months are:
70% walking, hiking, and biking trails
50% picnic shelters
47% playgrounds
41% nature trails
38% Activity and Recreation Center.

Where's the greatest need? The parks and recreation facilities that the highest percentage of households have a need for are:
76% walking and biking trails
70% park shelters and picnic areas
68% small neighborhood parks
66% large community parks
55% nature trails
51% playground equipment and play areas

(Report Comment)
Mike Griggs September 14, 2012 | 10:08 a.m.

I'm sorry but I failed to sign my earlier post. I am posting in my official capacity as the Assistant Director of the Columbia Parks & Recreation Department.

If anyone wishes to contact me with questions or comments, please feel free to do so at 874-6398.

Mike Griggs
Columbia Parks & Recreation Department

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin September 14, 2012 | 12:18 p.m.

Thx! But you forgot these questions:

When would you want to require eminent domain to take property away from homeowners for recreational activities?

3% walking, hiking, and biking trails
0% picnic shelters
2% playgrounds
1% nature trails
5% Activity and Recreation Center

Instead, when should eminent domain be used to take property away from homeowners?

85% Streets
90% Sidewalks
92% Sewers
94% Storm drains
93% Other critical infrastructure projects

(Report Comment)
Mike Griggs September 14, 2012 | 1:03 p.m.

Mike, It's ultimately a council decision. First, I'd like to point out that with very few exceptions, all of our existing trails included the use of eminent domain. The popular MKT Trail, Scott's Branch, Hominy, and Bear Creek Trail all had a parcel or more that required the use of eminent domain in order to acquire the required land to build the trail.

Most property owners are willing to donate an easement as they understand the value of the trail, but if you have to acquire 10 parcels, odds are that one will not agree to donate or voluntarily sell. Some will ask us to use a friendly condemnation as it is a way to barter a better price for their property. A parcel of Albert-Oakland Park was acquired using the friendly condemnation process.

The trails that did not use condemnation were those that were built on existing city, university property, or anohter agency like the Greenbelt Coaliation (ex: Hinkson Creek Trail). We're researching some of our old files so that we can provide exact number of parcels.

So, if we as a community decide not to use eminent domain as a tool for trail acquisition, then we might as well not plan to build any more trails. A property owner knowing that there's not even a threat of eminent domain would be able to stop the entire trail from happening.

That would be unfortunate because despite the public opinion of the "anti-trail or anti-bike" posters, Columbia has 38.98 miles of "multipurpose trails" and according to the Missouri Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, a city the size of Columbia should have 44.5 miles of trails.

Plus, for those that don't own or use cars, a bicycle is their primary source of transportation. Trails are a critical infrastructure project, especially for those that don't prefer to ride on the streets. They may be recreational riders going to school or work and not someone that feels comfortable riding down Stadium Blvd.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say with your percent of use of eminent domain. Is that from a particular study? I'm not trying to call you out, just want to know. Thanks.

Mike Griggs
Assistant Director

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders September 14, 2012 | 2:03 p.m.

Great, so they're going to run up insane legal bills in order to steal property, in order to create the next $1.57 boondoggle, which, like all other estimates involving time, will be far too small by the day comes to pay the bill (thanks to the increase in inflation GUARANTEED by Bernanke yesterday, as well as other debt-fueled destruction of "our" currency).

All this from an entity that cannot meet current needs, due to the amount of waste they blow other peoples' money on!

Honestly, what's not to like?

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders September 14, 2012 | 2:14 p.m.

"Friendly Condemnation" = "Do as we say, and nobody gets hurt. Otherwise, we'll start brandishing the weapons in our legal arsenal."

As always, no good or service should be provided at the barrel of a gun, regardless of the excuses of the perpetrator about how they are actually helping society. Society would not approve of my theft of property in order to provide it to others (regardless of need), nor should they condone it when done by wholly unaccountable bureaucrats.

Such actions are the hallmarks of gangs masquerading as public servants.

Call it whatever you like, but you'll never get beyond the logic of being a thief.

(Report Comment)
Zachary Matson September 14, 2012 | 3:01 p.m.

This is Zachary, the reporter of the story, thanks for all of the comments and discussion.

I moved information about the Parks website's public survey to higher in the story and added a link for anyone interested in finding that webpage and adding their comments. I also added information that hopefully better clarifies that there are more steps in this process, and the public will have additional opportunities to express concerns to the Parks Department, the Parks Commission and other city agencies.

The article clearly states that the City Council will have final approval over whether or not to move forward with trail construction.

Thanks, and I hope everyone has a nice weekend.

Zachary Matson

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 14, 2012 | 3:03 p.m.

Chris/Tony: Sorry, I'm locked out of the article in which you are commenting to me and cannot respond to what you wrote.

So, I wrote this here to let you know.

All: If ever I don't respond, you now know why. Last time I write off-topic in another article to convey a thought.....I hope.

Searching for other venues and trying to decide on a few..........

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin September 14, 2012 | 3:05 p.m.

Mike Griggs:

As you know being a long-time city staff administrator, this comment, "It's ultimately a council decision," is pretty meaningless.

Senior staff will ultimately drive this decision, as they drive most decisions hereabouts.

It also sounds like far more than one, two, or even a handful of parcels are in the path of eminent domain.

Can you give us a number on how many you'll have to use eminent domain to acquire? Or potentially use it?

The volume of opposition suggests that number is significant. If it is, this particular trail is probably not the right move at this time.

I also think you're jumping to an exaggerated conclusion here: "So, if we as a community decide not to use eminent domain as a tool for trail acquisition, then we might as well not plan to build any more trails."

That suggests there are simply no other options in trail building schema but those that involve eminent domain, and not just against a small handful of property owners.

I find that hard to believe.

(Report Comment)
robert link September 14, 2012 | 3:10 p.m.

Mike the percentages you describe, are they the entire city or just the respondents to a survey? If so I have never been surveyed regarding my use of parks or trails. If only 70% respondents have used walking trails and the survey was completed by a mere 10% of Columbia's population that would definitely skew the numbers.

(Report Comment)
frank christian September 14, 2012 | 4:53 p.m.

Mike W. - Looks like these dudes have us snookered. Seeing C. Foote's concerned comment about Romney's reaction to the Libya disaster, I decided answer, but, to check a couple of my intended statements for accuracy first. By the time I had done so and was ready to go, I was denied access to the piece. Too bad.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 14, 2012 | 5:32 p.m.

Frank: It's no big deal.

Methinks the positive cash flow for the Missourian will be NOT in "memberships" (that means "subscriptions" to you and me) but in firing all those hall monitors that helped keep you and me in control of ourselves.


PS: I'll miss creating the "blues" with the fine colonel, sniff sniff, but I did promise to buy a 6 month subscription if the Missourian published the anonymous jello shot letter. I intend to keep that promise, but they have to go first.


(Report Comment)

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