Columbia agriculture park nears opening as officials seek funding
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture will hold an informational meeting and a fundraiser Thursday evening for an agriculture park that's already under construction.
The agriculture park is part of a planned transformation of Clary-Shy Park on Columbia's Ash Street. According to the park's campaign website, the finished product will include a new pavilion, an interactive urban farm and an event space with a commercial kitchen.
Billy Polansky, executive director of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, said his organization will lease the space from Columbia Parks and Recreation, as well as the Columbia Farmers Market.
"We'll have demonstration gardens, our urban farm and educational resources. We'll be using this city park and enhancing it in ways that the Parks department couldn't," Polansky said.
The project will be completed in two phases. While the first phase is already under construction, the second phase just entered the fundraising process.
The park's website said the second construction phase, which includes the event space and a resource center, runs until 2022. Private and public sources have already donated $4 million toward the project, but phase two requires another $3.5 million in funding.
"The park will be able to function without those, so we're just going to continue to fundraise until we have that money secured and we'll be able to build those," Polansky said.
While some money comes from the Columbia park sales tax, Polansky said the majority of funds raised so far has come from people in the community.
"About 77 percent of the money we've raised so far has been private money. This is a public park, and we're getting private investment from donors to make it happen," Polansky said.
The informational meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Pressed in downtown Columbia. The first event at the pavilion is set for April 27, when the Columbia Farmers Market will move in for the summer.