Residents in northwest Columbia want to see an overgrown field converted to parkland, tall grass give way to 5,000 feet of scenic trail and marsh-like terrain become six scenic ponds.
The city does, too.
The Columbia City Council gave the city staff the go-ahead Monday night to apply for a federal grant that would help pay for the Garth Nature Trail. The estimated cost is $70,000. The trail would form a loop in the field south of the Bear Creek Nature Trail near the Garth Avenue trailhead.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said the roughly 60-acre project, which is in the northwest part of the city, is part of the parks department’s five-year park plan.
“Our Forum Nature Area in the southern part of the city is very popular,” Hood said. “We think a similar area in the northern part of the city would also be heavily used.”
The project would include a one-mile trail loop and several shorter trails to connect the Garth Nature Trail to the Bear Creek Trail. The total length of new trail would be 5,000 feet, and area residents would welcome the green space.
“I think it adds to house values and the quality of the neighborhood,” said Craig Palmer, who uses the Bear Creek Trail five times a week.
Plans also include construction of five or six wetland sites, which are like shallow ponds.
“Wetlands are just areas that hold water year-round,” Hood said. “And they are very conducive to wildlife.”
Even on a cloudy day, joggers, strollers and dog walkers are prevalent on the Bear Creek Trail. Residents say the area is ideal for trails.
“It’s nice not to have to go all the way across town,” Don Lynch said, adding that parking could be a problem as summer approaches.
Garth Nature Trail would be only for pedestrians, and it is one of a number of trails being developed throughout the city.
“It gives people an opportunity to walk without interference in a natural setting,” Hindman said. “Every way you look at it, it has numerous, numerous benefits.”
The federal grant is provided by the Recreation Trails Program, which is distributed locally through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
“We tried to pick a project that would fit well with the grant program’s funding criteria,” Hood said.
The matching-grant would provide 60 percent of the money. The city already has 40 percent available, Hood said
“We have an account called the Green Belt/Trails account,” Hood said. “One of the reasons we do that is to have matching funds available when an opportunity occurs.”
The DNR review process takes six to nine months. Specific plans will be submitted to the City Council if the grant is approved.
“It’s been an identified project for several years,” Hood said. “Funding just hasn’t been available.”