Columbia City Council approves plans for bike park
The city of Columbia is planning to build a new bike park in the northeastern portion of the Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area. On Jan. 17, City Council passed the ordinance allowing for the park's construction.
According to Gabe Huffington, the city of Columbia's director of Parks and Recreation, residents have begun contacting the parks and recreation facilities to discuss the development of a bike park. Its construction was approved by the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Committee after the project was discussed at a council meeting in January.
Among some of the possible services the park is expected to offer are a shelter, a parking space, an asphalt pump track, a bike playground, a mountain bike skills course, and a trailhead for Rhett Walters Memorial Mountain Bike Trail, also known as Rhett’s Run.
The Cosmo Bike Park's development has already sparked the enthusiasm of many Columbia residents, specifically biking enthusiasts.
“I'm really excited. I enjoy having lots of trails around, and it's a really great way to get people introduced to the sport without having to worry about safety,” Jackson Mitchell, a Walt’s Bike Shop employee, said.
Mike Burden, the team director of the Como Composite Raptors, a youth mountain bike team in Columbia, couldn't contain his excitement when he found out about the construction of a new bike park.
“It's pretty awesome,” Burden said. “There's a lot of momentum right now, which is super exciting. The sport continues to grow in terms of the number of riders.” Burden believes that one of the primary purposes of the park is to introduce new people to biking.
The Cosmo Bike Park will cover roughly 26 acres and cost a total of $750,000. The top donors from the project include The Frank W. Morris Memorial Trust and the Veterans United Foundation.
In Columbia, a portion of the sales tax policy is allocated to parks and recreational facilities. The city will pay approximately $225,000 for the construction of the bike facility using money from the 2021 Park Sales Tax and more than $500,000 in donations.
Burden would later note that one of the key attractions and reasons people choose to stay in Columbia is the use of those funds to protect the vast amount of greenspace the city has, along with the work of the Parks and Recreation Department to preserve it.
“The citizens voice their opinion best about that policy, which is that they continue to vote for it,” said Burden. “I think that if you look at surveys of Columbia residents, their satisfaction with parks continues to rank really high.”
The expense of the facility, particularly the asphalt pump track, is one of the compromises that parks and recreation are still working through due to a number of factors like inflation, the cost of commodities, and the cost of contracting.
“The asphalt pump track is not something that our own construction crews within the parks department could complete, and so we will contract out the design and installation of the asphalt pump track,” said Gabe Huffington, the Director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Columbia. “Those have started to increase in cost, so our biggest consideration right now will be the cost of that feature compared to everything else.”
Although the bike park was sought by the public, the Columbia Board of Parks and Recreation is aware that not everyone will be in favor of it, particularly in terms of finances.
“There will be some folks who may not want something to be done in their neighborhood; they may want to see money spent this way; they may have specific ideas for what would be in a proposed park,” said Huffington. “The good news for our department is that we have a dedicated park sales tax”
Huffington says that sometimes people misunderstand how exactly the Parks and Recreation Department can use the money from the tax credit.
“They can't be used to build roads, they can't be used to build sewer systems, they can't be used to fund police officers, these are dedicated funds set forth by the voters for capital projects and for parks and recreation purposes only,” Huffington said.
An obstacle still lies ahead in the path of Huffington and the future of the bike park. “Our biggest challenge to me is fitting everything within one location. The biggest challenge for any project is just making sure that you have all of the potential questions that you may be asked covered.”
Columbia residents can expect the park to be completed in the summer of 2024.