COLUMBIA — To the delight of Columbia resident Matt Smith’s children, an ordinance to create Auburn Hills Park was approved by the Columbia City Council in a unanimous vote Monday.
The park will be located in north Columbia, where Derby Ridge Drive dead-ends, and will include a playground with a basketball half-court, a picnic shelter and a new trail.
The Auburn Hills Home Owners Association has been talking about this park for a year, said Smith, president of the neighborhood association. Progress was delayed when residents expressed concerns about a new road that would have separated the park from the adjacent neighborhood to the west. A substantial number of trees would have had to be cut down to accommodate the road that would have hit a stream.
Smith called the potential damage to trees “absolutely devastating.”
Ron Bates, another homeowner in the area, expressed similar concern over the environmental implications. He fondly recalled sitting on his porch and seeing deer and raccoons roam the woods that would have been destroyed by the new road.
The biggest issue for residents, though, seemed to be ensuring safety for their children. Placing the road between the neighborhood and the park would have required that their children cross a busy street to go between the park and their homes.
At a July meeting of the Parks and Recreation Department, about 25 people showed up to voice their opinions on safety and environmental issues and on the potential damage the road could have on property values. Neighbors thought a different route, running north and east of the park, would avoid these pitfalls.
In response, council amended the ordinance, forcing the parks department to use the alternate route.
Construction is expected to begin this fall and will cost $135,000. The parks department will cover $35,000 of the cost and city sales tax revenue will cover the rest.
Smith, who moved to the neighborhood partly because of the park, said he knew two people who would be excited that the city was finally moving forward with plans. His kids, ages 7 and 11, have been “looking forward to riding their bikes.”