A proposed trail connecting avid bikers and walkers to Stephens Lake Park and developed commercial areas doesn’t seem like a bad idea, unless you live in the trail’s backyard.
Some Columbia residents who attended a drop-in meeting Thursday night voiced concerns about a proposed 1.1-mile extension of the Hinkson Creek Trail that would link northeast Columbia to the park. Others talked about how the extension would open up access to the city.
The connector would take people from under Interstate 70 and provide off-road access to the MKT Trail, according to previous Missourian reporting. It would complete a gap in the 30-mile loop around the city, which Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp says would make the trail system a destination for bikers.
It would also open up the north side of Columbia to Stephens Lake Park. “Interstate 70 acts like a giant river with very few bridges that are more for cars than they are for people,” Trapp said Thursday, adding that he supports walking and biking access across the interstate.
Columbia Parks and Recreation Planner Janet Godon said that the connection will provide better nonmotorized transportation to areas of employment, giving low-income individuals in Columbia better access to jobs.
”Non-motorized transportation is a national trend, and walking and biking helps people economically and makes the world a better place,” Godon said.
But some Columbia residents who attended the meeting raised concerns about a portion of the trail that runs right in between their homes and the Walmart on Conley Road.
When Tammi Elam moved to Columbia, she was pleased to find that her new residence on Willow Way was quiet and private. But as the area has become more developed, she’s felt that her privacy has been taken away.
She says the proposed trail would only further cause disruption by running right alongside her house. “It just makes you feel like people have their eyes on you all the time,” she said.
Elam also raised concerns about her German shepherd, who she says has a “big voice” and will bark at people passing by, causing a nuisance for her neighbors.
Alex Brousse, who lives on the same street as Elam, also complained that the trail would run right behind his house.
“Anyone walking along the trail can look to their left and see down into my window,” he said.
Park Development Superintendent Mike Snyder assured residents that in his experience, the things that people are afraid of when trails are proposed “don’t come to fruition.”
“Trail users tend to be people who care about the environment, don’t litter and who are out trying to have a nice experience in nature,” Snyder said. “We’re not talking about motorized vehicles; they’re just people passing by.”
One such passerby, wheelchair user Adrienne Errickson, said she liked the idea.
“It’s going to open up the city of Columbia for us in wheelchairs,” she said.
Godon says the project was on the park sales tax ballot in 2015 and was approved by voters. The budget for the project is $950,000, according to the city’s website.
If approved, construction will start in the spring of 2019.
An online survey is available for the public to provide input through Nov. 8, 2018, at bit.ly/2AsE1eE.