Columbia residents love their parks and trails.
That’s good news as the city prepares to ask constituents to renew a special park sales tax.
A survey done for Columbia by the ETC Institute showed that 86% of those surveyed would be supportive of a renewal of the park sales tax last passed in 2015; 80% of them for 10 more years.
The park sales tax consists of two parts: one that is permanent and a renewable one, which is what voters will be asked to consider. Both parts are one-eighth of one cent and each generates roughly $3 million a year or $30 million over 10 years.
Even with a mass of public support, it may still be difficult to find voters come voting day.
Randy Boehm, the co-chair of Friends of Columbia, said that it is sometimes difficult to get people out to vote, especially on days without national issues on the ballot.
Boehm said that he and Heather Hargrove, the other co-chair of Friends of Columbia, will be meeting soon to develop a plan of action for motivating Columbia voters. Boehm said that they plan on “talking on radio shows, talking to journalists, talking to civic groups and mailing to registered voters” to raise awareness for the upcoming park sales tax vote.
Boehm believes it is important to fund the Columbia Parks and Recreation department, especially due to their consistency.
“The Parks and Recreation department does exactly what they say they’re going to do with their money,” he said.
The renewable component of the current park sales tax is set to expire March 31, 2022.
The permanent component is used primarily to support the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department’s operations budget and pay off long-term debt from park land purchases. The renewable component is used for funding Parks and Recreation capital investment projects as well as matching funds for federal and state grants.
The Columbia City Council called for a special election to take place on Nov. 2 to decide whether to extend the park sales tax during its meeting on Aug. 2.
As expected, Columbia residents and politicians have seen support from many local organizations and their members. This support has been shared at council meetings and in interviews.
Lawrence Simonson, PedNet’s chief executive officer, told the city council on Aug. 16 that the organization supported the park tax but also strongly advocated for the reallocation of funds towards other trail improvements concerning the COLT, Bear Creek and Hinkson Creek trails. Simonson’s statements were supported by other organizations such as the Sierra Club and Mid-Missouri Peaceworks.
As a result, the priority list for projects funded by the sales tax was reorganized to add the additional trail projects.
If the tax is renewed by voters, the city would dedicate $8,465,000 to these trail projects:
- Trails Acquisition, Improvement, Grants — $1 million.
- Perche Creek Trail Phase II, Gillespie to Smith — $1.3 million.
- Hinkson Creek Trail Phase II, Clark Lane to Vandiver — $1.24 million.
- Cosmo Recreation Area: Fitness Trail Improvement, renovate 1.25 miles — $100,000.
- Stephens Lake Park Trailhead Improvement, parking and new rest room — $125,000.
- Grindstone Nature Area Trailhead Improvement, expand parking — $125,000.
- MKT Bridge Replacements, replace #2, #9, #10 — $275,000.
COLT Trail: College to Brown Station Road, parallel trail with two bridges — $3 million.
Bear Creek Trail: Lange to Fairgrounds, under U.S. 63 — $1.3 million.
After the updated list of projects was released, Simonson said that he “fully supports the park sales tax” and is “excited for its hopeful, eventual passing.” Simonson emphasized how much the Parks and Recreation Department listened to the organizations’ requests and worked hard to “include as much as they could of the things that we (local organizations) were suggesting.”
Voters can expect to see improvements in other areas too, including maintenance to existing parks and facilities, land acquisition and new facility/park development.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Griggs said the department will do everything it can to support the public, saying “it wouldn’t be the Parks and Rec department without doing what the citizens want.”