COLUMBIA – A $1.57 million extension of the Grindstone Trail is among the projects the city will complete if voters approve renewal of a one-eighth cent parks sales tax on Nov. 2.

The trail currently winds through Grindstone Nature Area, but the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department hopes to extend it to the confluence of the north and south forks of Grindstone Creek just east of U.S. 63.

The trail would provide a link to LeMone Industrial Boulevard, giving people who work there an opportunity to walk or bike to their jobs, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said. He considers this particularly important because of the new IBM plant at 2810 LeMone Industrial Blvd.

"We want to follow Grindstone Creek to the east," Hood said. "It would come out of the Grindstone Nature Area, go under Old 63 and continue east following Grindstone Creek underneath Highway 63.

"One of the keys is to get the trail to the east side of Highway 63. ... It's a pretty significant barrier. Crossing that highway is not the easiest thing in the world."

If the tax passes, Parks and Recreation will first hire a design firm to help plot a specific route for the trail. It would also hold interested parties meetings to provide information and to allow people who live and work in the areas affected by the trail development to offer their input. That process would take four to six months, Hood said; then the city would proceed with routing and actual construction.

Carrie Spicer, director of sales at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel at 3301 LeMone Industrial Blvd., likes the idea of building the trail. Although she lives in Jefferson City, she said a nearby trail was something she could recommend to hotel guests.

Kim Smith, a janitor at Dialysis Clinic Inc., 3300 LeMone Industrial Blvd., said she already rides her bike to work from her house near the stables at Stephens College. She said she didn't think too many of her co-workers would use the trail to actually get to work, considering some nurses arrive as early as 5 a.m. But she said she thought they might like it for exercise during breaks.

This was the sentiment of Tracy Wilson, general accounting supervisor at OATS Inc.

"I would love to have a trail area nearby to walk during lunch break!" she wrote in an e-mail.

If the tax passes, the Grindstone Nature Area would also be in line for a new bathroom.

The city actually has two one-eighth cent sales taxes for parks. One is permanent and covers the Parks and Recreation Department's annual operating budget and the long-term debt that comes with purchasing green space.

The other, which is up for renewal, is used primarily for capital improvements. The city is asking voters to extend it for five years. If voters oppose it, the tax will expire on March 11.

The city has developed a website with a full project list and other information about the parks sales tax.

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