Half of the Crane land might become part of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
Mayor Darwin Hindman said Tuesday that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has talked with the city about the possibility of the DNR buying about half the estimated 317-acre property from Sue Crane. The land lies just southeast of Columbia and the 489-acre Philips farm. Such a purchase would have the potential to extend Rock Bridge State Park and create a buffer around environmentally sensitive Gans Creek.
Other officials were hesitant to confirm Hindman’s remarks Tuesday.
City Manager Ray Beck said he has been negotiating for city acquisition of the Crane land, along with 140 acres of the adjacent Philips farm to create a 500-acre regional park that would link Rock Bridge State Park and Nifong Park. While would-be Philips developer Elvin Sapp has offered to donate 40-acre Bristol Lake and 23 acres of the surrounding property, he’s asking for more than $1.2 million for another 77 acres of the land.
Conceptual sketches by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department show more than 25 athletic fields on the Philips land and a natural area on roughly the southern half of the Crane property.
DNR spokeswoman Connie Patterson on Tuesday confirmed that the DNR and the city were talking. She said the agency was interested in protecting the creek but couldn’t predict whether it would offer to buy part of the property. Both Beck and Patterson described the talks as preliminary.
Patterson said DNR’s limited budget might prevent it from getting involved with the Crane property. She said that the agency sets aside only a certain amount of money for buying new parkland each year and that it usually tries to buy land with historical significance.
There’s some question about whether the city can afford to create the regional park without DNR help. At the Columbia City Council work session Monday night, Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku asked whether the city can afford to buy both the Crane and Philips properties.
Beck explained that the city was talking with the DNR and that the Missouri Department of Conservation might be interested in helping maintain Bristol Lake.
Beck insisted Tuesday that a purchase of both tracts was possible without DNR involvement. He said the city had about $2.2 million in its fund for park improvements and noted that proceeds from the city’s sales tax for parks will boost that number to $4.7 million over the next six years.
Beck said the city would have enough money to buy both the Crane land and part of the Philips land if the payments were spread over several years.
Hindman said Sapp might allow the city to pay for the Philips property in installments. “He’s willing to carry us for a little while,” he said.