Columbia residents get a say on future of Douglass Park

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:50 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Community members at a drop-in meeting observed and offered opinions about two plans for renovation of Douglass Park. Matt Boehner, senior planner for the Parks and Recreation Department, said about two-thirds of the attendees on Thursday preferred Plan A, which has a different parking design.

COLUMBIA — Anthony Stanton visits Douglass Park almost every day.

"A guy needs 15 minutes to unwind after work," Stanton said. "I have friends — I may go see if they're at the shelter." 

Stanton, who lives near the park, and close to 40 other community members weighed in at a meeting Thursday on two proposals for the future of Douglass Park.

The plans were prompted by the purchase of several lots adjacent to Douglass Park, park services manager Gabe Huffington said.

The process has involved an abundance of public input, beginning about a year ago when a meeting with the Douglass Park Neighborhood Association yielded six plans for the park, Huffington said. The parks department winnowed those plans to the two that were on display Thursday.

An online survey about the plans will be available through Nov. 6, Huffington said. The plans can be viewed on the City of Columbia's website.

The main difference between the plans is that in Plan A, the parking lot in the park would be replaced with pull-in parking along Fifth Street. The location of several shelters and the order in which amenities will be added also differ between the plans. In Plan B, the existing parking lot would remain.

About two-thirds of those who attended Thursday's meeting were in favor of some version of Plan A, said Matt Boehner, senior planner for the Parks and Recreation Department. The Parks and Recreation Commission also favored Plan A at its most recent meeting.

A version of Plan A that might incorporate some of the suggestions from Thursday's meeting and the online survey results will be brought before the City Council on Nov. 18, Boehner said. The first opportunity for public comment before the council will be at the Dec. 2 meeting.

Stanton approved of the way both plans were split into two phases.

"I like how they did 'this is our dream, this is what we've got the money for,'" he said.

Phase one already has $100,000 in funding from a city park sales tax. Funding for the second phase might come from a 2015 park sales tax ballot issue or from grants. If the City Council approves a plan and the weather cooperates, work on phase one could begin as early as January, Huffington said. Phase two would be implemented as funding becomes available.

Both plans call for the addition of a skate spot, an amphitheater, several small shelters and a handball court, as well as the renovation of the existing shelter and playground. A skate spot is a small skate park with landscaping, Huffington said.

Additional green space would benefit events such as Easter egg hunts and kite-flying days held in the park, Huffington said.

Stanton said Plan A would allow more of the park to be dedicated to park uses instead of parking and might address some of the trouble that has faced Douglass Park.

"It'll keep ill will from happening," Stanton said.

Douglass Pool was built in the 1930s as part of the federal public works program, according to Columbia's website, and construction of the park began in the 1960s. The park is the social center of the First Ward and Columbia's African-American community, Stanton said.

Graphic by Caitlin Campbell.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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