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Columbia voters approve sales tax for parks and recreation

Columbia Parks and Recreation is already planning how it will spend $18.4 million dollars generated from a voter approved sales tax over the next six years.

Tuesday, nearly 71 percent of voters were in favor of passing the renewal park sales tax.

According to Michael Griggs, Parks and Recreation Director, 46 percent of the funds will go toward maintenance of existing parks, 18 percent to new development, 16 percent to trails and 5 percent to new programs and scholarships.

Griggs said 43 of the 67 parks in Columbia are neighborhood parks, which need some updates immediately.

“We have some playground equipment that are at the end of their lifespan. They’re 25-30 years old that need replacing,” he said. “So anything that’s health and safety issues where things have outlived their date, those are our priorities.”

The McKee Street Park and the Westwinds Park are two neighborhood parks Griggs said that need updated.

Ashley Coronado and her daughter, Payton, visit the McKee Street Park as often as they can.

“We bring our dog over here. I’ll read a book and she’ll just hang out and play,” she said. “There’s a basketball court in the back and my husband and I will go out and play.”

But Coronado said the park could use some updates. She’s excited a new playground will be installed from the sales tax money.

“I wish it was more colorful and the swings are broken, so if it could just be touched up that would be amazing.”

Some other immediate projects include replacing bridges along the MKT Trail.

Parks and Recreation is also planning to build three new parks in land that it already owns. Griggs said this would include two new neighborhood parks and park near Battle High School.

Griggs said the additional parks are necessary as Columbia continues to grow in population.

“Columbia has grown 11 square miles since 2000 since we passed this park tax,” Griggs said. “We’ve grown 40 percent in population, we’ve added 34,000 new residents, so they want the same amenities that other people have.”

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