Neighborhood residents Martha Echols and Steve Johnson talk with Toney Lowery

Neighborhood residents Martha Echols and Steve Johnson talk with Toney Lowery at the interested parties meeting for Kiwanis Park improvements on Thursday. Johnson said he visits Kiwanis Park about four times daily, and Echols said she visits the park around three times weekly.

Community members interested in the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department’s improvements to Kiwanis Park met Thursday night to discuss the renovation of one of the park’s shelters and the potential for improved park cleanup, trail markers and a playground.

The department will prioritize improvements to the Talbert Thurston Shelter, one of the park’s two shelters, and the parking lot next to the shelter. The renovation will include a new roof, added LED lighting and a new concrete floor. The parking lot and walkway next to the shelter will be resurfaced.

The new shelter floor, which is cracked and uneven, and the resurfacing of the parking lot and walkway that are currently gravel surfaces, will help to meet Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

“Any project that we do, we have to look at the accessibility of our parks system,” Gabe Huffington, Parks Services manager, said.

Huffington said the shelter and surface updates are expected to cost between $90,000 and $100,000, but the department has $125,000 to dedicate to the improvements. Funding comes through the city’s Park Sales Tax.

“We’ve got more money than project, I think,” said Senior Park Planner Toney Lowery, who led the discussion.

The purpose of Thursday’s meeting was to hear which improvements community members would like the remaining project money to go toward.

Anushka Jalisatgi attended the interested parties meeting for Kiwanis Park improvements

Anushka Jalisatgi attends the interested parties meeting for Kiwanis Park improvements Thursday night to share her idea for her Girl Scouts Gold Award project.

Lowery named adding a playground in the park, honeysuckle abatement and park cleanup as potential ideas. Lowery and Huffington said adding a restroom near the Thurston Shelter is another possibility down the line after more Park Sales Tax funds come in.

Fourteen members of the community came to listen, discuss and propose ideas. Many live in the neighborhood, which also includes Russell Boulevard Elementary School and Trinity Presbyterian Church.

Martha Echols lives in the neighborhood and proposed adding more lights, trash cans and security measures to help the park maintain a tidy, inviting, family feel.

“If a space looks cared for, I think people will be more likely to follow suit,” Echols said.

Mary Kaye Doyle attended the meeting because there are three memorial benches honoring her late husband in the park. She has fond memories of her children and her husband playing in the park.

“It’s been my neighborhood park for 53 years,” she said.

She hopes the benches or the trails will be more clearly marked so she can easily locate them.

Anushka Jalisatgi, a 17-year-old rising senior at Rock Bridge High School, attended the meeting to share her idea for her Girl Scouts Gold Award project. She hopes to work with the department to create a map and trail markers that the department can use to more clearly define and label the park’s trails.Lowery said the parks department only maintains upkeep and maintenance of trails clearly defined on a park’s official map.

As is routine with all capital improvement projects, the input gathered from Thursday night’s meeting will be posted online and will go to the Parks Commission, where the public will be able to give more feedback.

If the Parks Commission wants to move forward with the projects, the proposed improvements will go to the Columbia City Council, where members of the public can voice their thoughts on the project and the council can vote to approve or revise the proposed improvements.

Supervising editor is Libby Stanford.

  • General Assignment reporter, summer 2019. Graduate student studying magazine editing. Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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