Steve Schnarr has noticed the growth of Columbia as it pushes south toward his home near Easley. What used to be open pasture land along Route K is now residential subdivisions. And along Smith Hatchery Road, a pasture, feed mill and hog farm have been leveled in preparation for a new development. Schnarr, 34, said the No. 1 priority for Columbia in the future should be the environment, specifically including green space in development plans.
“As Columbia was growing in the past, there was definitely some forethought put into protecting certain spaces as the city grew,” Schnarr said. “And that continues to some extent, but the city is growing so rapidly outward I think it’s important that we’re continually looking at ways to save green space.”
Schnarr, who volunteers with the Missouri River Relief, a project that cleans the river in communities throughout Missouri, has noticed what he considers to be a positive step the city has taken to protect the environment.
Putting Columbia’s waste water treatment through the Eagle Bluffs Conservation area is a good method, he said, and he wants to make sure it continues in the future.
“As the city grows, though, I would like to see forethought put into making sure that system can handle the growth and waste water of the Columbia area,” he said.
Forethought is what the citizens who are volunteering their time to Columbia’s environmental visioning group are trying to provide. The environment topic group listed three broad goals in “Exploring the Vision,” a document compiling draft goals and strategies for the visioning topics:
- Ensure the air, water, land and natural beauty of Columbia and its neighboring communities are protected.
- Make Columbia a model city that approaches zero waste of all primary and secondary forms of energy and goods used by people.
- Work toward achieving maximum energy efficiency and transition to renewable energy sources.
Many of the strategies to achieve these goals include educating the public on the value of environmental stewardship and the need for and care of native green space.
Economic development is another consideration. For instance, a strategy under the Resource Conservation subtopic is to “create an encouraging atmosphere for business opportunities based on sustainable resources such as transport and manufacture of recyclables as well as repair and update to existing structures and machines.”
Some residents, such as T.R. Shrout and Dareth Goettemoeller, already have an appreciation for the environment and ideas about how to improve it.
Shrout, who has lived in Columbia since 1953, said, “A lot of seniors are interested in conservation.” Their interest extends to making sure the city’s buildings are clean and complement their surroundings, he said.
Goettemoeller’s vision for the environment focuses on community gardens. She said that creating gardens would ensure that spaces are kept green, serve an educational purpose, and build community among neighbors.
Community gardens “are a way to get people involved in growing and (the) environment,” Goettemoeller said. And the gardens would produce healthy, locally grown food that people could teach their kids about, she said.
It’s an idea residents in Goettemoeller’s Ridgeway Avenue neighborhood tried. Though their vision for a garden never fully blossomed due to the cost of the land, Goettemoeller believes more people would grow gardens in their neighborhoods if there were opportunities to create them and the city provided information about grants to fund them.
Goettemoeller would like to see her community gardens idea planted sooner rather than later. “If we do it now, we could start it from the beginning,” she said.
— Missourian reporter Cajsa Collin contributed to this story.