COLUMBIA — The city's Parks and Recreation Department is preparing to convert 50 acres of land south of Philips Lake into playing fields, parking lots and water detention basins, an area where cattle grazed in grass fields just a few years ago.
With an estimated cost of $1.7 million, the tract is the first phase of the future 320-acre Gans Creek Recreation Area, first approved by the Columbia City Council in 2010.
If given the final go-ahead at the Sept. 16 council meeting, construction could start soon after, said Toney Lowery, senior park planner for the Parks and Recreation Department.
Lowery predicted some of the seven athletics fields in the first phase will be finished by spring, depending on the quality of the grass planted in the new park. If there are problems, some fields will open in the fall, he said.
The property sits directly south of recent and ongoing development: A. Perry Philips Park, Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School and the Discovery Park Subdivision.
Bob Feldwisch owns property near the future park. He likes the idea of the park, though preserving what's left of Columbia's "natural beauty" is also important, he said.
"I don't want to see it all bulldozed and turned into baseball diamonds," Feldwisch said. "I'd like to see them keep some of the natural beauty intact."
Lowery said about 100 acres of the 320-acre Gans Creek site would be left untouched, the only encroachment a winding walking trail.
Catherine Dunn, who attended the meeting, said she supports the proposal.
"I think it's a reasonable open play space for kids and adults," she said. "I understand it's a first step to a more comprehensive plan, but it would be nice to see a workout center in southeast Columbia."
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