Grindstone medians becoming gardens

Flowers will be the final touch for the revamped parkway.
Thursday, March 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:33 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The city of Columbia plans this spring to start putting the finishing touches on Grindstone Parkway.

The new road already boasts a bicycle lane and a sidewalk. City crews will add flower beds and an irrigation system to the 8-foot-wide medians just east and west of the Grindstone Parkway entrance to Rock Quarry Park.

“They wanted it to be attractive,” Parks and Recreation director Mike Hood said of those involved in early planning for the parkway, which doubles as Route AC. “That was one of the goals when they originally designed the street.”

The highway’s total project cost is about $16.4 million, the vast majority of which came from the Missouri Department of Transportation and went toward construction of the road. The Columbia City Council, however, chipped in $932,000 for aesthetic improvements, including the bike lane and the sidewalk. It allotted about $30,000 for the landscaping.

“The cost of the flower beds themselves will only be about $2,000 to $3,500,” parks and natural resources supervisor Brett O’Brien said. “Most of the cost of the project will go towards labor and the irrigation system.”

The irrigation system will provide a steady supply of water to the flowers and allow for annual blooms.

“It’s going to look a lot better than it does now,” said Karl Kruse, a former Fifth Ward councilman and a member of the committee that helped design the parkway. “We came up with a design that most people could live with.”

Kruse, however, believes the project could have been finished without an expensive irrigation system.

“We discussed a drought-resistant landscape-planting design that would have kept the aesthetics while drastically reducing the overall cost of the project by cutting out the irrigation system,” he said.

Installation of the irrigation system and subsequent flower beds will start around the beginning of May, O’Brien said. The project will be done in stages, starting with the median just east of the Rock Quarry Park entrance. The bed west of the park entrance should be done in spring 2005. The city is leaving time between plantings to ensure any major problems with the first planting can be corrected before the second is done.

“The hard part is getting the site set up with safety and everything,” O’Brien said. “We want to make sure MoDOT is happy.”

The city accounted for safety during every step of this landscaping project, O’Brien said. For example, designers ruled out trees because they felt plants in the median must be “crashable.”

“We wanted them to look nice without being manicured,” he said. “But we also wanted them to not be a safety hazard should they happen to be run over by a vehicle.” O’Brien said the five types of flowers that will fill the median — wine cups, My Antonia aster, prairie dropseed, Missouri primrose and Stephanie prairie clover — were chosen because of their bright colors and because they require little maintenance.

“We wanted them to be tough, with good color, with not a lot of pampering,” he said. “But we also didn’t want to obstruct people’s vision,” O’Brien said.Kruse said he thinks the road is much better than it might have been without the amenities.

“They would have built a five-lane highway with a turn lane in the middle that was striped out most of the way,” Kruse said.

Some Columbia residents have wondered about the inclusion of the bike lane, arguing bike traffic on Grindstone Parkway is relatively low.

“That’s what planning is all about,” Kruse said. “Believe me, it’ll pick up as soon as that land is developed, and it’s already starting.”

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