Funds grow for Columbia agriculture park
COLUMBIA — The campaign for an agriculture park in Columbia officially became public on Saturday. The campaign has already raised more than $1.7 million in its first six months.
At the Columbia Farmer’s Market on Saturday, the campaign team unveiled conceptual plans for the park and some of the larger donors.
Clary-Shy Park will soon feature a permanent farmer’s market structure, the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, outdoor classrooms, community gardens and stormwater retention facilities.
The park is located on Ash Street, between West Middle School and the Activity Recreation Center. This is the current location of the Columbia Farmer’s Market.
Adam Saunders, Campaign Director for the Build This Town Campaign for the Agriculture Park, said the concept is a nice fit for the area.
“The agriculture park is a great counterbalance to what you see at the ARC that builds on health,” Saunders said. “The ARC is great for physical activity, and the agriculture park that has the urban farm, the farmer’s market and the outdoor classroom is a really great combination of things that balance well.”
Columbia Parks and Recreation park development supervisor Mike Snyder said a permanent structure for the market been proposed before, but this time, it may come to fruition.
“In previous attempts, they came up with this really grand building that they wanted and it was going to cost three, four million dollars. And they didn’t have a phased approach to making this happen. And so people just thought, ‘this isn’t going to happen, I’m not going to contribute money to something that’s not going to happen.’ This new group has a much better approach,” Snyder said.
The campaign team hopes the impact of the park will be felt beyond the immediate surrounding area. Food grown on the urban farm will continue to go to the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Columbia. The farm is currently the top provider of fresh food to the food bank. The new park will give the farm three times the space it currently has on College Avenue.
According to the plans, groundbreaking could be as early as fall of 2017.
“We really look forward to transitioning this space from just turf into a really productive urban farm,” Saunders said.
More information can be found on the campaign’s website at BuildThisTown.org.