Parks Commission approves Grindstone Trail funding

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 | 10:43 p.m. CST; updated 10:41 a.m. CST, Friday, November 16, 2012
The Parks and Recreation Commission voted Wednesday to proceed with the proposed Grindstone Trail project.

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Allan Rodgers.

COLUMBIA — The Grindstone Trail received another shot of support Wednesday night as the Parks and Recreation Commission voted in favor of moving forward with the trail.

The commission supported a proposal to continue with 100 percent funding of the Grindstone Trail by a 4-3 vote of all the commissioners.

Commissioner Susan Davis, who voted in favor of the trail, said it is her job to represent the larger community of people that did not show at the meeting.

"It is hard to please everyone, and I am sorry not everyone will be pleased," she said. "But it's not just about me or any one individual, it is about what is best for the city as a whole."

The commission tabled a vote at its October meeting to allow engineers an opportunity to study the possibility of adjusting the proposed route to avoid private properties that would have been threatened by eminent domain under previous routes.

John Holmes, a representative from Allstate Consultants, said by building into the existing bank of the creek, the city could establish a trail that would avoid the properties in question. 

"We think we found a good route by building closer to the creek than we normally would," he said. "With this route we don't directly impact any private residential lots."

After the meeting, Holmes said no trails in Columbia are as close to a creek bed, but similar trails have been built across the country.    

More than 30 members of the public attended the meeting, and of the dozen who addressed the commission, most were against the trail. Residents of the East Pointe Subdivision have repeatedly expressed opposition to the trail at various public hearings since the summer.

Jim Pursifull, who has lived in the East Pointe Subdivision for more than 20 years, said he was primarily concerned with the disruption the trail would have to the natural environment surrounding the Grindstone Creek.

"I walk out onto my deck and can see the creek. The beauty and serenity can be breathtaking," he said. "When we do projects like this there are no do-overs. Once the bulldozers start up, the creek basin is transformed forever."

*Allan Rodgers, the original developer of the East Pointe Subdivision, said engineers are capable of accomplishing almost anything but that does not mean it should be accomplished.

"It can be done, what's been proposed can be done," he said. "You can also fill in the Grand Canyon." 

Many of the arguments expressed against the trail were dismissed by some commissioners as the same arguments that follow all trails and never actually come to fruition. Those arguments include privacy, safety and environmental concerns. 

"I heard some of the same arguments tonight that I heard when the MKT was being proposed for town," Linda Hutton said. 

Commissioner Daniel Devine said that he has faith in the Parks Department's ability to address neighborhood concerns as the project moves forward. 

"I am in full support of the Parks Department and the process they go through to make these decisions," he said. "This is not off the top of their heads. There is a plan. The plan is to develop parks and trails for the city, and they will work with the neighbors to address and solve any problems that come up."

Former Mayor Darwin Hindman spoke in favor of the Grindstone Trail and said it is important to carry through on the promises made to voters. The Grindstone Trail was specifically identified by the 2010 park sales tax ballot initiative. 

"I don't want to have the next park sales tax facing criticism that the money would be transferred from park projects to something else — to someone's pet project," he said.

At an October meeting, the Columbia City Council proposed scrapping the Grindstone Trail and shifting the project's $1.4 million to GetAbout Columbia projects.

The Environment and Energy and Bicycle and Pedestrian commissions both voted unanimously at their October meetings to move forward with the Grindstone Trail. Both commissions cited concerns that the Grindstone Trail was identified by the 2010 park sales tax.

Mayor Bob McDavid and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe both oppose the proposed Grindstone Trail and support using the funds to help pay for a trail that would cross Hinkson Creek, connecting Old 63 to Rollins Street near the MU Animal Sciences complex.   

"I've had a lot of correspondence from people about the Grindstone Trail," McDavid said at the Nov. 5 council meeting. "People who support the trail usually have a caveat: 'I support the Grindstone Trail but not eminent domain.' Therein lies the problem."

Ultimately, the City Council has final approval over the trail project and will likely set a public hearing at a future council meeting before making a final vote.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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