What happened once Columbia's long-disputed Shephard-to-Rollins Trail was finally finished? | columbiamissourian.com

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The trail connects East Campus with Old 63, making it perfect for students who live in one of the many apartment buildings dotted along the roadway. And no doubt it makes a morning bike ride to work painless for MU employees who live in the Bluffdale Drive neighborhood.

But the strip of concrete that caused so much ruckus, so much deliberation, and the arrest of a 67-year-old, Juilliard-trained piano teacher, is only about half a mile long.

“The biggest users of the (Shepard-to-Rollins) trail will be students that live in the area, as it gives them a direct route to East Campus,” Columbia's Park Planning and Development Superintendent Mike Snyder said in 2018.

The students who live along Old 63 are mostly concentrated in large apartment complexes, several of which provide shuttles to and from campus each day. The degree to which they are using the trail is unknown. . . .

Her Wild Nature group and a newly formed group, the Shepard to Rollins Restoration Coalition, work each week to maintain the nature sanctuary and remove invasive plants. The coalition built a wooden bike rack, a braided honeysuckle fence and began a native-plant nursery leading into "Luba's forest" at the top of the trail. Each Saturday, they pull up ragweed, nutsedge, and crabgrass, which Forté said have all overtaken wild oats planted earlier this summer.

In coordination with the Wild Nature group, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Columbia Office of Sustainability maintain an evolving plan for restoring the area. The plan is a living document, Snyder said, because the restoration process will take several years.

MoBikeFed comment: A few local citizens strongly opposed to the short but important trail connection held up trail construction for over a decade. Their tactics included purchasing a tract of land just before its sale to Columbia City parks and a several-day protest by one citizen perched in a tree as a last-ditch attempt to prevent trail construction, after every judicial avenue was exhausted.

The trail provides the only safe access completely away from motorized traffic for thousands of citizens, including many students, who live along the Old 63 corridor in Columbia and need to access downtown or the University of Columbia.

The trail connects Shepard Blvd at Old U.S. 63 across Hinkson Creek to Rollins Street on the eastern edge of the UM campus. It also makes a connection to the Hinkson Creek Trail, which connects via many other trails and connectors to many points around Columbia.

Because of the topography of the area, residents who live along Old U.S. 63 or east of that area previously had no safe, low-traffic routes to walk or bicycle to the UM campus or the main part of Columbia.

Before trail construction, the only available route for walking or bicycling included extended stretches on busy Old 63, and busy and complex intersection at Old 63 and Broadway, and a lengthy ride along very busy Broadway, near its interchange with U.S. 63.

The new trail connection turns this difficult, high-traffic route into an easy and enjoyable jaunt along tree-lined trails.

So what happened after the Shephard-to-Rollins Trail was finally finished?

- Thousands of residents and students had a much shorter, stress-free, nature-filled way to travel from home to school, work, or shopping--or anywhere along Columbia's every-growing trail system.

- People who walked or biked to school or work through this area now avoid traffic and exhaust fumes

- More people will choose to walk or bike from their homes to UM and other Columbia destinations, reducing traffic and pollution

- The trail takes only a very small portion of the natural area; with support from the city and residents the remaining natural area along the trail and the creek will be maintained and improved, with invasive species removed and watershed and habitat improved.

More about Columbia's Hinkson Creek Trail:

https://www.como.gov/parksandrec/trail/hinkson-creek-trail/