The few buildings and shelters at the Boone County Fairgrounds aren’t much, but they do the job when the fair comes to town. But planners from Columbia, Boone County and MU are weighing three options for developing the fairgrounds into an area that could facilitate all kinds of recreation year-round.
At a public forum Monday night, the Boone County Fairgrounds master plan was introduced to the public by David Vaught, an instructor in MU’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism who helped develop the plan.
Originally, the plan included only two options, a “preferred” and an “alternative.” After reviewing the plans, the city suggested a third might be appropriate, said Mike Snyder, park planner for the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department.
The third option shows the Atkins Tract, 80 acres in the northeast corner of the fairgrounds, being used almost entirely for active recreation.
“In this option, we basically turn the Atkins Tract into a full-blown athletic complex,” said Vaught.
The city sees the Atkins Tract, which it owns jointly with the county, as an opportunity to meet the needs of the community.
“From the city’s standpoint, we do have a great need for ball fields and active recreation facilities,” Snyder said.
As of 2002, Columbia had 23 baseball diamonds, which Columbia Parks and Recreation says is 36 fewer than recommended by Missouri standards. Mid-Missouri falls short of the standard by 162 baseball diamonds, Vaught said.
Option one reserves the Atkins Tract for passive recreation such as walking, fishing and bird watching. In contrast, option two utilizes the Atkins Tract for baseball, roller hockey and ice skating, as well as walking and fishing.
Option two is the least expensive choice at about $3.9 million. Options one and three are more expensive at about $4.5 million each. However, Vaught mentioned in his presentation that option three could also cost about $1 million more in excavation costs for leveling the Atkins Tract.
The city has not decided which option it prefers, but its decision depends on the Phillips Tract and Crane properties. If the city is able to utilize those properties for ball fields and active recreation facilities, it will be more likely to support option one, but otherwise, the city favors option three, Snyder said.
However, after feedback, the planners expect the options to change before the final decision is made.
"I assume that none of these will be the final plan,” Snyder said.
Boone County Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin wants to make sure that whatever the final plan is, it’s something the public supports.
“It’s the public’s land, so we have to take public comment and generate a plan that the public will accept,” he said.
Boone County resident Nolan Tritschler, who attended the meeting, said he is worried about traffic in any option because there’s only one road to the Atkins Tract. He prefers option two because it would provide another facility where kids from the Hallsville Twisters roller hockey league could play.
He coaches a team in the league and said there are about 200 kids in the league now, and another facility could easily accommodate 100 to 150 additional kids. His input, along with that of 20 others who attended the meeting, will help the county decide which option they feel is best.
Once the county commission has had time to discuss the issue, it will meet with city representatives to try and agree on one plan for the fairgrounds.
The county would like to come up with a final plan within the next 60 days in order to apply for a land and water grant, Elkin said.