Residents offer opinions on proposed Hinkson Creek Trail extension

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Parks and Recreation held a public input meeting regarding a proposed extension of the Hinkson Creek Trail Thursday night, as the city looks to continue building a 30-mile trail loop around the city's edge.

Residents were able to see preliminary mockups of the proposed trail route and ask questions face-to-face with Parks and Rec employees in Stephens Lake Park's Riechmann Pavilion, as well as leave comments in an anonymous suggestion box. 

The proposed 1.1-mile long trail extension would run from Stephens Lake Park to new sidewalks currently being built on Clark Lane in northeast Columbia. The extension would link portions of northeast Columbia to the city's vast trail network, which primarily serves the city's south side.

Columbia's Park Planning & Development Superintendent Mike Snyder said the public's input is an integral part of the construction process. 

"With any public input meeting, there are always ideas that we hadn't thought of... People will say 'Hey, we really like this idea,' or 'We really don't like this idea,' and we can make changes based on that input," Snyder said.

The extension would make Hinkson Creek Trail the second trail in Columbia to cross I-70, after the Hominy Creek Trail was extended in 2016. Plans call for the trail to cut under the interstate alongside Hinkson Creek itself, near the Highway 63/I-70 interchange and where the trail would link up with the Clark Lane sidewalks.

Residents of Columbia's north side have been largely cut off from Columbia's trail network because of the hazards I-70 can pose, but the proposed trail is one of many crossings the city wants to build in the future. 

"This will be a major connection from north Columbia to Stephens Lake Park, and then from Stephens Lake Park to lots of other trails and also to downtown Columbia," Snyder said. 

For Eddie Vogel, who lives a block from Clark Lane, the new trail will open up opportunities for him - and, in his eyes, for others.

"Not only will it benefit me, but I believe it'll benefit a lot of other people that have wheelchairs, or just like to get out and go for a jog or a walk with the family," Vogel said. "Instead of having to worry about the kids getting hit by traffic, this is a better way to access the places people need to go."

Vogel is wheelchair-bound, and he said the new trail makes events downtown more feasible for him to go to. For other people, he said the new connection could change how Columbia families get around.

"This might open an opportunity where instead of driving a car to get to a park, if it's a nice day a family can just take the trail," Vogel said. 

If you have questions or concerns about the proposed trail and didn't make it to the meeting, an online survey is available on the city's website.