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Walkers may get new trail

Health enthusiasts may have a new walking trail at Columbia Park if the National Park Service follows Gov. Matt Blunt’s recommendation to give the project a $25,500 federal grant.

The walking trail development proposal is one of 14 projects that received Blunt’s recommendation for a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant. The federal funding program helps city and county governments, as well as school districts, acquire, develop and renovate outdoor recreation projects.

Blunt has asked the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to recommend that all 14 projects be funded. The governor chose from 59 applications across the state. The recreation projects were scored on how well they met the recreational needs of the communities, planning goals and unique or specific attributes.

Grant funds are made available through the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service. The National Park Service must approve the recommendations before grants are awarded and the projects all require a 55 percent local match.

Columbia Park, at the intersection of Main and Strauss streets, is the city’s largest and most utilized park. It includes a public swimming pool, three shelters, a gazebo, a chapel, picnic facilities, and a large outdoor amphitheater. Rest room facilities are available.

Park Hills submitted its application after taking suggestions from residents who completed an informal written survey in September.

&#8220We’ve noticed that for some time, people seeking to improve their health have walked the perimeter of Columbia Park on Fowler Drive,” Assistant City Administrator Norm Lucas said. &#8220But when a car comes through, you have to watch your back.”

Lucas said the city was concerned about residents’ safety. Staff wanted to develop a separate walking trail with good lighting so people could walk during the evening, especially during the summer.

The city’s application was for a .7 mile long, asphalt path that is 4 feet wide. It will lie just outside Fowler Drive in the park. The path will be lighted and will include plantings to make it more of a nature walk, Lucas explained.

The National Park Service could makes its decision in the next 60 days. If the project is approved, the city would start the project as soon as funds are available.

Lucas thanked the citizens for their help in preparing the project.

&#8220We very much appreciate all of the input,” he said. &#8220Not only from the folks at the high school who gave their opinions, but also the folks at the nutrition center and the folks among the general population who offered their thoughts on the project.”

Blunt said he was pleased that the grants were available to help Missouri communities improve public parks and recreation facilities.

&#8220This is good news for Missouri families and a positive investment in local communities,” he said.

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