Trails Campaign: 2021 Park Sales Tax

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PedNet Position & Recommendations

PedNet Coalition supports the 2021 Park Sales Tax renewal and strongly advocates for the inclusion of additional new trails in the Park Sales Tax project list.

PedNet recommends the revision of the Priority 1 project list to include the following new trail construction projects, in priority order:

  1. COLT Railroad Trail: College to Brown Station Park (3.5 miles)
  2. Bear Creek Trail: Blue Ridge to Brown Station Park (via Northeast Regional Park) (2.3 miles)
  3. Hinkson Creek Trail: Brown Station Road to COLT (0.75 miles)

Total: 6.55 miles

The current draft Park Sales Tax project list includes funding for the Perche Creek Trail Phase II and Hinkson Creek Trail: Clark Lane to Vandiver. This would build only 2.5 miles of new trails over the next 10 years. Revising the project list to include the additional three trails that PedNet recommends would accelerate trail construction to build 9 miles of new trails over the next 10 years.

What is the Park Sales Tax and why does it matter?

Columbia has a 1/4 cent sales tax that funds local parks, trails, and natural lands. Half of the tax (1/8 cent) is permanent, and the other half (1/8 cent) goes to the voters every few years for renewal. The next Park Sales Tax renewal will go to the voters on the November 2021 ballot. Each Park Sales Tax renewal has a project list that commits Columbia Parks & Recreation to completing specific projects using the sales tax funding.

The Park Sales Tax is the primary way that Columbia funds and builds new trails. This means that the next 10 years of trail building in Columbia will be decided when City Council votes on the Park Sales Tax project list on August 16.

How much do people use trails in Columbia? Does Columbia need more trails?

  • Trails are the highest use park facility in Columbia. 81% of residents use walking, hiking, and biking trails. Trails are the park facility residents visit most often.
  • Trails are also the highest need park facility in Columbia. 71% of residents identified that they need access to additional walking and biking trails. This rate is equivalent to over 34,000 households.
  • Columbia falls well below Missouri’s park standards for recommended miles of trails per person. For Columbia to meet the standard, the city needs an additional 93 miles of trails.
  • Access to trails is most limited for people living in Columbia’s northern neighborhoods (Ward 2 and Ward 3).

What’s in the current draft project list?

  • The draft project list allocates 33% of total funding to new facilities for regional sports teams and sports tourism. For example, the draft project list includes $5.3 million for new construction of the Columbia Sports Fieldhouse: Phase II, yet only 6% of Columbia residents have visited the Sports Fieldhouse in the last year.
  • In contrast, the draft project list allocates only 8.8% of total funding to new trail construction (Perche Creek Trail Phase II and Hinkson Creek Trail: Clark Lane to Vandiver). Trails serve the needs of residents of nearby neighborhoods, and building a connected trail network serves the needs of the entire local community.
  • The draft project list funding for the entire Trails and Greenbelts category (i.e., new trail construction + trailhead and parking lot expansions + surface renovations + bridge replacements; $3.14 million) is less than a single item in other categories (Columbia Sports Fieldhouse Phase II, $5.3 million and Northeast Regional Park (fairgrounds), $4.125 million).

What has the pace of trail building in Columbia looked like?

  • Columbia began building the 30-mile trail loop with the MKT in the 1980s. At the current rate, the 10 miles remaining in the 30-mile loop will be completed in the 2060s, roughly 80 years after construction began!
  • The previous 2015 Park Sales Tax funded 2.5 miles of new trails over 6 years. The current 2021 Park Sales Tax draft project list would build trails at an even slower pace, building only 2.5 miles of new trails over 10 years.

Watch our Let’s Chat presentation on the 2021 Park Sales Tax