Flat Branch Park plans to add a water plaza

Thursday, July 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:26 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Columbia’s Flat Branch Park may get a little more interactive.

Mike Snyder, park planner for Columbia Parks and Recreation, said the plan is to create a water plaza with fountains that children can play in. Often called “spray-grounds,” the fountain will feature water that shoots out in designs, such as arches. Plans include smaller fountains for children who may not like playing in the larger fountain. The plaza will be constructed with brick or cobblestone, which Snyder said will be more attractive in winter, when the water is turned off.

“We want the space to be attractive the entire year and flexible and usable even when the water element won’t be there,” Snyder said. “We want it to be fun and neat.”

Mike Hood, Director of Parks and Recreation Department, said that the water feature is part of a larger plan to beautify Flat Branch Park. Plans for this phase call for extending the park a block further south, from Locust Street to Elm Street along the stream. It also includes more tables, benches, and a new bridge that crosses the park and connects to the other side of the creek, near the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

With the added amenities, Hood hopes that the water feature will bring more visitors to the park.

“The park provides a nice green space in an urban downtown setting and could potentially be a site for more community gatherings like it was for the Twilight Festival this June.” Hood said. “We want the water feature as an attractor for people to come and enjoy.”

Before construction can begin, however, an environmental cleanup of the park and creek will take place this fall. Hood says that area of the city had previously been very run down with an old warehouse on the property and a space that was overgrown with weeds. The creek had also been used as a dumping ground for concrete and asphalt. A grant from the Environmental Protection Agency will pay to remove soil contaminated by petroleum products from old fuel depots along the MKT railroad.

City funding will help pay for the environmental cleanup, and private donations to the Flat Branch Trail Head Committee will provide partial funding for park construction.

Snyder said preliminary drawings for the water feature have been made, but stresses that it is still in the early stages of the planning process and that city projects often take many years to go from an idea to completion.

“This is a little premature in that all we have done are the conceptual plans,” he said.

While all the funding for the project has not been finalized, the current plan is to complete the environmental cleanup this fall and start creek restoration next summer. Later, construction drawings will be completed and contractor bidding will begin, steps that will require City Council approval.

“It is exciting that we have the funding in place and the grants to do the environmental clean-up, and hopefully the other steps will fall into place,” Snyder said.

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