COLUMBIA — A public meeting for a park plan at Jay Dix Station turned into a teaching moment Thursday night when more students than residents showed up.
Five students from an MU parks planning course came to the meeting for an assignment to see how park planners present their plans to the public. Instead of dealing with a large turnout, the students got personal interaction with the park planners.
Halli Bruton, MU sophomore, said she was surprised so few people showed for the meeting but enjoyed being able to ask questions personally. She also said that even though few residents came to the meeting, it is important to provide the opportunity for the public to respond to the plan.
The plan under consideration is to build a playground, basketball court, pavilion, multiple practice fields and potentially additional parking on a 30-acre property adjacent to the MKT Trail off Scott Boulevard.
Superintendent of Park Development Mike Snyder said the goal of the proposal is to establish a park in the area because neighborhoods north of the site have families with children, and there's residential development to the south. He said this plan is comparable to nearby Louisville Park, which has similar amenities and was built four years ago.
The plan would require the removal of some sycamore and cottonwood trees that have grown in the past five to 10 years, but that would clear the way to better views of a large oak tree that would remain, Snyder said.
Low public turnout is often the case when a plan is less controversial, Snyder said.
"If they like what they see on the web, they don't always come to the meeting," he said.
Pat Urban, the only resident who stopped by the meeting in the first hour, said she was excited about the plan and thought there was a need for a neighborhood park in the area.
She said she could bring her granddaughter to the park to play on a slide, and her 17-year-old son could shoot baskets on the court. Urban suggested the park builders plant wildflowers that would bring birds closer to the children who were playing at the park.
"Columbia is a very exciting place; it is always thinking about parks and open spaces for people," Urban said.
Snyder said he thinks the plan will move its way through the commission and council process this winter and be ready for construction next spring and summer. The construction process would likely take six months, he said.
Bow hunting of deer is currently permitted on the park property, but Snyder said that policy would be reevaluated as the plan moves forward. Bow hunting is also allowed in a wooded area east of existing practice fields on the east side of Scott Boulevard.
Snyder said the Parks and Recreation Department would likely present the plan to the Parks and Recreation Commission in November, which would allow an opportunity for more public comments before sending its own recommendation to the Columbia City Council for final approval.
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