COLUMBIA — Columbia's outdoor recreational footprint is marked by the MKT Nature and Fitness trail.
Twenty years ago the formation of the 8.9-mile nature walk received a lot of flack because it was to be developed near the backyards of many people.
The current trail, which offers a natural escape close to the growing city, is almost unanimously praised.
Those that live close to the MKT are pleased with the impact it has had on their community, according to a recent survey by the Parks and Recreation Department and the MU Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
The survey, conducted by MU assistant professor Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, took results from the responses of 149 residents that live within 200 yards of the trail. The survey asked questions about trail usage, trail satisfaction, improved resale value of home and potential issues connected to the trail.
According to the the report, the majority of respondents enjoy the trail and their relationship to it:
- 70 percent stated they were "very satisfied" and 24 percent "satisfied."
- 89 percent indicated their quality of life has improved.
- 71 percent said the trail makes their property easier to sell.
- 23 percent use the trail five to seven times a week and 47 percent use the trail one to four days a week.
Former Mayor Darwin Hindman is not surprised by the data, but he is happy MU conducted the survey. A resident of Columbia for 78 years, he has always fought for more parks and trails in the city. In the past, he conducted surveys about various trails and got similar responses.
"Any survey that I did is going to be questioned because I'm such an advocate, but the university is much more neutral," he said.
Residents along the MKT have not always believed in its benefits. In trying to get the trail established, Hindman met a lot of doubters.
"There is a tendency for people to be afraid of trails," he said. "Afraid of the potential privacy loss, trespassing, littering, vandalism and theft."
The survey found very few incidents. Four percent of respondents reported theft and three percent reported vandalism.
David Mountjoy neighbors the MKT and frequently uses the trail for running, biking and watching wildlife. He moved to his present location 20 years ago partly because of the trail.
"People on the trail are very respectful," he said, "We've never had an incident."
Hindman hopes that this survey will change people's perception of trails.
"This survey proves their benefits are tremendous for the community," he said. "People stop me literally every day and tell me how much they love the trails."
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.