Local contractors will begin construction of a part the Shepard to Rollins trail that goes through a highly debated piece of land.
A local non-profit organization, It’s Our Wild Nature, owns the Wilderness Sanctuary and Natural School. But the city of Columbia used eminent domain to acquire the land to complete construction on the Shepard to Rollins trail project. The trail would create a roughly 30-mile loop around the city.
Sutu Forté, a member of It’s Our Wild Nature, said destroying this piece of land means cutting down trees that are over 100 years old, and disrupting the ecosystems of the animals that live there.
“They say, oh, we'll replant. How do you replant 100-year-old tree?” Forté said. “And there's several of them. How do you do that? You don't. How do you do that to your grandmother?”
Communications director for the City of Columbia Steven Sapp said the path would provide an alternate means of transportation for lots of Columbia residents, and helps make the city greener.
“Non-motorized transportation is an important part of our climate action and adaptation plan that the Council approved earlier this year,” Sapp said. “We're reducing our carbon footprint by trying to encourage people to ride bikes, to walk, and provide them with the pathways that they need to get to school to get to work.”
Sapp said the city has made sure the contractors will work to disrupt the environment as little as possible, and that the city will send out a newsletter to It’s Our Wild Nature and the residents near the trail every two weeks to update them on construction. But Forté believes any amount of construction is too much.
“We couldn't…make a ‘reasonable’ bike trail through this land without really destroying the whole purpose to keep it wild,” Forté said.
Members of the organization appeared at Monday’s City Council meeting to present their opinion, and have collected over 1,000 signatures from community members to stop construction. However, the city plans to begin construction on Nov. 4.