Mayor Darwin Hindman has long been an advocate of the Flat Branch Park project. It’s a matter of preserving important property, he said.
“It’s a historical site,” Hindman said. “Columbia really began right there.”
On Monday, the Columbia City Council took a step toward completing the second phase of the park when it authorized the Parks and Recreation Department to apply for a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant worth up to $150,000. If the project is funded, the city would be required to match the grant with a contribution of $183,333. Combined, the funding would pay for about half of the estimated $690,000 project.
The Phase Two development will take place between Locust and Elm streets, across the street from the current Flat Branch Park, senior park planner Mike Snyder said. Running along Flat Branch Creek, the second phase of the park will include green space, picnic tables and seating areas.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood told the council Monday that planners hope to include other features that will attract children and families to the park.
In addition to the recent grant application, the council also authorized the department to accept a $200,000 Brownfields Cleanup Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The city will match that grant with $40,000 from the park’s Phase One budget and from the quarter-cent citywide sales tax earmarked for park improvements.
Park development superintendent Steve Saitta explained that the EPA funding will be used to pay for the removal of contaminated soil from the area.
Settlement of Columbia in the early 1800s began in the Flat Branch Creek area, which was a crossroad for the Boonslick Trail and Providence Plank Road travel routes. From 1908 through 1968, the site was used as a bulk-oil terminal adjacent to the MKT railroad. In January 2002, an environmental assessment indicated the presence of underground petroleum contamination.
“It will be nice to get the pollutants in that area cleaned up,” Hindman said.
Snyder said that the Phase Two project is a three-step process: cleaning up the soil, restoring the creek and constructing the park. Saitta said the cleanup is slated to begin next spring or summer. Beyond that, he said, “it’s difficult to come up with a timeline because we don’t have all the necessary funding in place yet.”
In addition to grant money, the department hopes private donations will help finance development of the park. Jack Waters, chairman of the finance committee, said more project details need to be finalized before fund raising can begin.
“We need to develop a prospective list of candidates to approach,” Waters said.
Waters believes the fund raising will be very successful judging by the results of the Phase One campaign, which netted more than $190,000 in private donations. “The nature of the project just sold itself last time,” he said.
Phase One of the Flat Branch Park project included the cleanup and development of an acre of land at Fourth and Locust streets. Snyder explained that the Phase Two development will look very similar to the first. The end product, he explained, will be “a string of parks going along Flat Branch Creek.”