We have an abundance of pedestrian and bicycle trails in Columbia, ranging from the well-used MKT Trail to the hardly used Hominy Branch Trail. A few are barely known (with the exception of the neighborhood).
What most of these trails have in common is that they travel through wooded or wild areas and are branded as “nature trails.”
While we do have a number of trails, what we do not have are wooded or wild areas that are trail free, where indeed, as the federal Wilderness Act has it, “...man himself is a visitor, who does not remain.”
In short, there need to be some areas that are free from bikes and walking trails, where nature does indeed reign.
No one, that I know of, is advocating that we declare a Wilderness Act in Columbia. But, we do need to recognize that a few areas need to be preserved in a pristine state.
It is too late for many places, such as the Grindstone Nature Area off Old 63 and Hinkson Woods, accessed from the MKT Trail. Both have several trails, and neither is free from hikers and their dogs.
But there are a few dwindling areas, where, indeed, there are no invasive trails and no bikes, and the only way to traverse them is hiking through tangles of brush and detouring around large trees.
One such is the former “Altis Tract” in east Columbia, now owned by the non-profit group Its Our Wild Nature. This group is trying to keep the area wild, free of trails and generally undeveloped. The group has named it the “Columbia Wilderness Sanctuary and Natural School.”
But the city of Columbia, after a vote by the City Council, has other plans for this area and a glut of federal money that must be spent. The city Parks and Recreation Department has — via eminent domain — acquired an easement that ultimately will run a hiking-biking trail through the area.
Its Our Wild Nature took the matter to a local court and lost. The organization then appealed to a district court and lost that round, too. The local and district courts almost totally ascertained that the city had followed the procedures of eminent domain and did not consider the value of the property as a wild area.
But, Its Our Wild Nature perseveres, citing concerns of privacy and security that have rendered most of the neighbors on Bluffdale Street (more or less parallel to Hinkson Creek) opposed to the project.
However, putting aside concerns about privacy and security, we do not need more trails in the city. What we do need are more wild areas where deer, raccoons, squirrels, songbirds (and birds that don't sing) and other wild creatures can roam free without needing to flee.
Its Our Wild Nature has scheduled a grand opening for the wild area beginning at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 14. No doubt, guided tours will traverse the proposed route of the city trail.
The City Council voted to approve this trail, but it is clear that we need more wild areas, not fewer. The City Council needs to undo what they have done.