Fishers push for an earlier start time at lakes

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COLUMBIA - One fisherman is looking to have an earlier start at parks with fishing lakes than those without.

In a letter to Columbia Parks and Recreation, Columbia resident Josh Costello expressed concern about the park hours at A. Perry Philips Park. The hours of operation at Philips Park are from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., like most parks owned by the city.

In his letter, Costello said it might be beneficial for anglers if Philips Park and other parks with fishing lakes open at an earlier time. He wrote, "The extra hour or two in the morning makes all the difference. I understand that aligning park hours across the city makes sense logistically, but for parks where fishing is a major attraction, I'd ask you to consider opening lake access earlier in the day."

Costello is not the only person who thinks the hours should change. Columbia Parks and Rec transports Bobby Neubauer, along with others with disabilities, to Philips Park in the morning so they can go fishing. Neubauer said he thinks parks with fishing lakes should open closer to when the sun comes up.

"That would give them time to get out here and get set up and then be on the water by six, instead of waiting until six to get set up," Neubauer said.

The city has nine parks with fishing lakes or ponds. Each park has its own rules and regulations regarding the fish in the water, but the park hours are all the same.

The Missouri Department of Conservation provides fish for the lakes at seven of those locations: Philips Park, Stephens Lake Park, Twin Lakes Rec Area, Cosmo-Bethel Park, American Legion Park, Cosmo Park and Nifong Park. Only those locations would open at an earlier time if the Columbia Parks and Rec Commission approves the proposal to extend fishing hours.

Gabe Huffington, Park Services Manager for Columbia Parks and Rec, said the department is proposing a 4:30 a.m. open time for parks with fishing lakes.

"Those seven locations would open at 4:30 a.m. for fishing purposes only," Huffington said. "How we would look at that is, we would want you to be actively fishing or moving to your site."

After receiving the letter from Costello, Columbia Parks and Rec began researching park hours in other areas. Huffington said the department compared its city park hours to other municipalities to see if the fishing hours were the same as the park hours.

"Most of the parks we looked at, the fishing hours coincided with the park hours, so this would be a little bit of change from them," Huffington said.

Huffington said the change in hours would not be a major cost to the department.

"The only cost effect it would really have would be the signage at the parks," Huffington said. "We'll have to either amend the current signs that are there in some way, or we'll have to make new signage."

Currently, signs at each of the parks have the operation hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. If the Columbia Parks and Rec Commission approves the new hours at its meeting on Thursday, the signs will change to 4:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.