COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Columbia City Council approved a multimillion dollar trail that supporters hope improves safety.
The council voted 6-1 to build the $2.3 million Shepard-Rollins trail. The project would create a new concrete path from Bluffdale Drive to Rollins Street, near the University of Missouri Veterinary School. The city would also extend the Hinkson Creek trail from Stadium Boulevard and Old 63 South to the new trail.
The council fielded public comment for two hours, as a steady line of speakers filled the city hall on Monday night. Supporters of the project said the trail would be helpful for those trying to make it to MU without driving. Opponents feared the project would disrupt wildlife in the area and cause harm to the Hinkson Creek.
Those opponents asked the city council to consider making pedestrian and bicyclist facilities safer on Stadium Boulevard instead. Many members of It's Our Wild Nature said a connection between east Columbia and campus already exists with Old 63, Stadium Boulevard and Ashland Road. Councilman Ian Thomas pushed back on that idea, saying fast-moving car traffic on Stadium Boulevard makes it unsafe for people to use as a reliable route.
"Nobody is going to take up bicycling or walking to university or their jobs if that's the route they have to take," Thomas said.
John Stansfield, a professor at MU and head of the cycling team, said he supported the project. The cycling team uses the area east of campus for many of its courses, but would not mind relocating for the connection to campus. He said the area often contains litter as his team prepares the course.
"It's all a former landfill or sewer easement," Stansfield said. "This is in no way, shape or form anything like wilderness, by any stretch of the imagination."
Parks and Recreation staff plan on using an existing sewer easement north of Stadium Boulevard for part of the trail. Invasive plant species also litters the area, director Mike Griggs said, and the trail would allow for easier access to the area to get rid of it.
Griggs told ABC 17 News that staff will still need to acquire easements, or permission, from others to build the trail. He expected construction to finish in a year once started.
Most of the money for the project comes from a federal grant specific to non-motorized transportation projects. The parks department will spend $800,000, as well.