Plan links Philips, state park

DNR would expand Rock Bridge to include acreage adjacent to Philips farm.
Friday, February 20, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:04 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

The park planned for the Philips property just south of Columbia might include an extension of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, city officials said Thursday.

The city has held preliminary talks with representatives of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources about extending Rock Bridge park to include at least part of a 320-acre tract owned by Sue Crane just south of Gans Road and west of Highway 63.

Park would link several properties

A conceptual sketch from the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department shows the Crane property, which is adjacent to Rock Bridge, being combined with an adjacent slice of the Philips farm, including the 40-acre Bristol Lake, to create a crescent-shaped regional park that would span more than 500 acres. The new park might also be linked to Nifong Park to the north.

Gans Creek bisects the Crane property. The sketch shows that land being preserved as a natural area featuring only trails and picnic shelters.

Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood emphasized that the sketch is only preliminary. Any actual purchase of the land would be followed by an extensive series of studies and public hearings to determine how to create a park on the property.

Developer Elvin Sapp for more than a year had offered to sell the city as much as 130 acres of the 489-acre Philips farm, the balance of which he hopes to have annexed and to develop with a mix of homes, apartments, businesses and office buildings. Late last week, Sapp tweaked his offer, saying he would donate the lake and 23 acres of surrounding property to the city, then sell it another 77 acres for $1.28 million. That pitch was part of a series of changes to his development plan for the property, which the council will vote on next month.

City says plans are preliminary

While city officials have been interested in buying both the Philips park tracts and the Crane property, Hood said they have also talked with the DNR about the state buying part of the Crane land to expand Rock Bridge park.

DNR spokeswoman Connie Patterson said Thursday the agency is interested in protecting the Philips property, but she was unable by Thursday evening to confirm whether there had been talks about the Crane property.

Assistant City Manager Bill Watkins emphasized that the city has made no offer on the Crane property thus far and that the Philips park could be developed without it.

“It could stand alone as a community park, but it would be a super addition to the Philips property,” he said.

Talks have begun

City Manager Ray Beck said Thursday he is the only person involved in negotiations for the Crane and Philips properties. The City Council directed Beck to begin negotiations a few weeks ago; Beck declined to talk Thursday about the progress of those talks, saying he did not want to upset the Crane family.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said the new regional park could be part of the solution to concerns about protecting the environmentally sensitive watersheds of Clear and Gans creeks from pollution that might accompany new development. The Philips portion of the new park might also become the home for new baseball and soccer fields and an expanded Bristol Lake that could be used for boating, fishing and possibly swimming.

“Acquiring the park and that lake has enormous benefit to the watershed and to Columbia,” he said. “That gets overlooked in the discussion.”

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