Christy Welliver memorial planned for Stephens Lake Park

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 | 3:05 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Two years after her death, Christy Welliver is still making Columbia a better place.

After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1985, Welliver was an active member of the community involved with the Columbia Disabilities Commission, the city's Public Transportation Advisory Commission and was the founding vice president of the PedNet Coalition to name a few.

After she died on Aug. 9, 2011, Welliver’s friends and family wanted to find a way to honor her memory and contributions.

“One day I was talking to her mother and she told me that she was interested in getting a park bench along the MKT trail,” Chip Cooper, who founded the PedNet Coalition with Welliver, said. “I had a feeling that a lot of people wanted to do something for her, so I knew we needed to think a bit bigger than a park bench.”

Cooper was already working with Parks and Recreation on the Hindman Discovery Garden, so he asked if there were any other projects that could be done in Welliver’s name. Plans were already in place to enhance the Stephens Lake Park entrance, and once the city showed interest Welliver’s loved ones went to work raising money.

Park planner Matt Boehner said that although the initial fundraising goal was $15,000, the effort raised more than $20,000.

Welliver’s memorial will include a small sitting area and a plaque in her honor, as well as improvements to the park’s main entrance such as plant collections, trees and shrubs. Planners also aim to develop a collection of plants that emphasize low maintenance and encourage wildlife habitat, including a butterfly garden next to the memorial plaque.

The work, which totals $21,961, will also allow for some maintenance-related projects such as correcting drainage issues, reconditioning topsoil and adding more bicycle parking.

A ceremonial groundbreaking will be held on July 11, which coincides with the birthday of Ruth Welliver, Christy's mother.

“The groundbreaking is for any friends and family who are interested or involved in the project,” Boehner said.

A public hearing for the memorial has been set for 7 p.m. at the July 15 meeting of the Columbia City Council. Construction is expected to begin once the council approves the project.

“We just wanted to have a nice, accessible area that’s very easy for those in wheelchairs to get in and get around,” Cooper said. “This location is a great way to remember her story.”

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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