Without Trails

Vote ‘Yes’ for park sales tax renewal to boost trail access in northern Columbia


People in Columbia love and use trails. When Columbia residents are asked what parks they use most and which they visit most often, the answer is the same: trails. Trails are the most used park facility in Columbia, with 81% of residents using the city’s walking, hiking and biking trails.

Columbia’s trails and parks are funded through the city Park Sales Tax. On Nov. 2, voters will have the opportunity to vote “Yes” on the renewable portion of the Park Sales Tax. The tax is funded primarily by local residents, and the renewal of the tax is voted on by local residents. As such, the funds should be spent on the needs identified by the residents.

What are the needs identified by residents? The good news is that we don’t have to guess. When asked what park facility they need most, residents say they need more of what they use most: trails. Seventy-one percent of residents say they need access to more trails. This is equivalent to 34,000 households.

Many people in Columbia are surprised to learn that Columbia actually lags behind state standards and other comparable cities in building trails. Based on Columbia’s population size, the city needs an additional 93 miles of trails just to meet Missouri’s park standards for recommended miles of trails per person.

The need for additional trails is not distributed evenly across the city. Access to trails is most limited for people living in Columbia’s northern neighborhoods, such as the Second and Third Wards. Trails are the backbone of Columbia’s walking and biking network, and poor access to trails contributes to inequities by limiting access to community resources such as jobs, grocery stores and health care.

That’s why Local Motion, formerly PedNet Coalition, is so excited about the upcoming Park Sales Tax renewal. Earlier this summer, Columbia City Council and city staff received a flood of community input from individuals, businesses and major employers calling for the Park Sales Tax to fund new trails that would open up access to the areas of the city that need it most. Council and city staff heard these community needs and responded, and they revised the project list to include the trails that community members recommended.

As a result, the 2021 Park Sales Tax will fund new trails for Columbia’s northern neighborhoods. We are particularly excited that Columbia will begin building the COLT Railroad Trail from College Avenue to Brown Station Road, paralleling Paris Road and opening up safe walking and biking access to this active business corridor.

The funding will also support extending the Bear Creek Trail from Lange Middle School to the Boone County fairgrounds, and the Hinkson Creek Trail from Clark Lane to Vandiver Drive.

The 2021 Park Sales Tax is the most significant investment ever in trail access for Columbia’s northern neighborhoods. Voting “Yes” for the Park Sales Tax renewal Nov. 2 is a vote for Columbia’s trail network and a vote for transportation equity.

Lawrence Simonson is the CEO of Local Motion in Columbia. 

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