Dozens of community members from the Hinkson Valley neighborhood showed up to express concerns about safety and crime Tuesday night at a meeting concerning trail construction between Shepard Hills and Rollins Road.
The meeting at the Reichman Pavilion at Stephens Lake Park was organized by It’s Our Wild Nature, a nonprofit organization that owns land annexed by the city to build the trail. The organization sued in the 13th Circuit Court of Boone County to block the trail but lost the case in January, according to previous Missourian reporting.
The trail will connect Rollins Road to the MU campus and the Shepard Hills neighborhood to the east, also linking together the Hinkson Creek, MKT Nature & Fitness and Hominy Creek trails.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Betsy Peters, Mayor Brian Treece, City Manager John Glascock, Fire Chief Randy White and interim Police Chief Geoff Jones were present to listen to the community's concerns.
The biggest concern expressed at the meeting is the fear that more people in the neighborhood could lead to more accidents and more crime.
Residents, including It’s Our Wild Nature Chairwoman Sutu Forté and Brian Johnstone, spoke of their fears relating to liability in car and bicycle accidents, more people coming into the neighborhood through the trail, crime and homelessness. They are afraid that cars might hit bicyclists speeding down nearby streets and that homeless people might come from the trail and camp in the area.
Barbara Wren said she also worries that the trail will not be accessible for people with mobility issues, noting that mud, hills and poor cell phone reception could make it very difficult for those with disabilities to use the trail.
Others at the meeting spoke in favor of the trail, including former Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe.
Hoppe and Treece, who have both lived in neighborhoods where similar trails were built, noted that they have heard many of the same concerns before but that fears about safety were unfounded. Hoppe cited a Parks and Recreation study that found the overall impact of trails in Columbia has been positive, with trails increasing property values and neighborhood safety.
“I lived at the cul-de-sac on Bluff Pointe Drive when that (Grindstone) trail went through ... . I lived right there when that trail went through, and I’ve heard all these concerns, and none of your fears materialized,” Treece said in a conversation with Forté after the meeting.
Johnstone, Forté and others said they felt that the answers the city gave were not quite satisfactory but that the meeting was ultimately a good thing.
“Whatever anyone says this meeting was a good thing because people were able to express their concerns. Even better, it wasn’t orchestrated by the city,” Johnstone said.
Supervising editor is Olivia Garrett.