Potential for a new trail on East Campus

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COLUMBIA – There may be a new way to get to MU's campus, without driving.

The Columbia City Council has set a date for when it will vote on the Shepard Boulevard to Rollins Road Trail Project.

The trail will connect East Campus to Stadium Boulevard and Bluffdale Drive. Columbia Parks and Recreation Department Director Mike Griggs said the project will provide smooth access for those who don’t drive to campus.

“It’s a really valuable connection, especially if you don’t have access to motorized transportation,” he said.

Griggs said, currently, there are only two ways to get to campus without driving. Either bike down Stadium Boulevard, or up the steep hill on Old 63.

This would allow bikers and pedestrians to get on the trail and go all the way up to Rollins Road, which will connect them right to MU's campus.

Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said the trail would create the only safe route to walk or bike to East Campus.

The trail comes as part of an initiative by Columbia Parks and Rec to create a 30-mile trail loop around the city. Griggs said a loop would allow for the possibility of living in Columbia without a car.

“You start connecting out to that circle from various neighborhoods, from shopping centers, to education centers, and you start connecting it to that loop, now you’ve really created a network of non-motorized transportation.”

Griggs also said, aside from the non-motorized benefits, citizens could connect with nature and the city could begin to drive its economy by hosting races with the trail loop.

“You could do a marathon without ever having to cross a highway,” Griggs said.

Griggs said, currently, the loop is about 60-percent done. Thomas said this project would play a crucial role.

“It is in a fairly high-populated area of Columbia, so this piece will attract a lot of trail users,” Thomas said.

The project has been a long-debated one for the city council. According to Thomas, the project has been discussed in the city council for more than a decade, which he admitted is unusually long for a trail. He said certain nature activist groups have consistently opposed the construction of the project, citing nature preservation as their concern.

“I argue that it’s going to be just as beautiful, but more people are going to be able to enjoy it,” Thomas said.

Thomas also said, despite the opposition the project has faced, it is the closest it’s ever been to being approved.

The Columbia City Council will vote on the trail project February 5. If approved, construction will begin in the Fall of 2018.