The Roots ’n Blues festival this Sept. 7-8 is bringing more than music to Columbia; it’s also the planned opening of the second phase of Flat Branch Park’s redevelopment.
Phase two, between Locust and Elm streets, will add a suspension bridge connecting the park to the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, a splash park water feature, a playground, two sculptures and an amphitheater-style retaining wall.
This will make the park an even greater gathering place, said Steve Saitta, park development superintendant for Columbia Parks and Recreation.
The two sculptures, by local artist Larry Young, will be installed by late August, said Marie Nau Hunter, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs. Flat Branch Park will also serve as another trail head for the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail.
“The intent was to develop green space and park land in the Flat Branch district, and there’s many pluses that it is bringing to the community,” Saitta said.
“The parkland in the area protects the stream, the MKT Trail runs into downtown, and it provides green space and an atmosphere for community gathering.”
Parks and Recreation director Mike Hood said the project, which is funded by the State Petroleum Tank Insurance Fund, a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, donations and park sales taxes, has improved the quality of the water and the land.
“I think we’ve achieved a lot,” he said. “We’ve cleaned up the environment and restored it to a real positive atmosphere down there.”
Park services manager Mike Griggs said the additions to the park will enliven the area because children will have fountains and a playground and adults will be able to enjoy the amphitheater.
“The first phase was more passive, but the second phase will be more active,” Griggs said. “There are play features for kids — a spray ground. Phase two will make the whole downtown area more vibrant and active.”
The water alone draws children in, Saitta said.
“It creates quite an attraction,” he said. “They want to go over and climb around on the boulders, get down in the stream. They can do that. Parents don’t have to worry because it is a safe environment now and well maintained.”
Yet the site will serve as a gathering place year-round, Saitta said.
“Phase one has allowed for great programming activities both for the city and for us. Phase two will only add to that,” Saitta said.
“Roots ’n Blues is coming in September, and it will be a venue for that as well. It’ll encourage people to come down.”
Missourian reporter Laura Myers contributed to this report.