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Columbia City Council approves plan to build Whitegate Park


The Columbia City Council at its meeting on Monday approved a plan to build a new park in east Columbia.

Whitegate Park will feature a playground, shelter, basketball court, handball court, youth activity court, open playfield, sidewalks, lighting and trees.

The City of Columbia has been looking to build a park on the east side of town for awhile now, but finding the right spot to build it has been a challenge.

"What we try to do is have a park within a half mile of every resident in Columbia," Columbia Parks and Recreation Director Gabe Huffman said. "So when we talk about the ability to walk or ride a bike to a park, a half a mile is generally the distance we look. And because of some major roadways that are located in that area of Columbia, we have never been able to find a property that is large enough for a park in that area."

According to a City Council memo, city identified a 2.24-acre property located at Towne and Whitegate drives as a "primary park acquisition service area" in it's 2013 Neighborhood Parks Plan. In 2018 the city purchased the property from Columbia Insurance Group for just $250,000, which was far less than the property was worth.

The entire project to build the park will cost roughly $400,000 and will be funded by the 2021 park sales tax and donations from JBS Hometown Strong initiative and Swift Prepared Foods which total $200,000, according to city council documents. 

According to Huffman, Swift Prepared Foods reached out to the city about a contributing to a couple of different projects.

"The aspects of this park being unique in the fact that we did not have one in this area of Columbia, so it really serves a need for a park," Huffman said. "They [Swift Prepared Foods] liked that as part of their donation and part of why we needed a park in their funding to be able to do that."

These donations helped add some extra amenities to the park.

"One aspect that makes this a little bit different is we do have a partnership with the JBS Strong Program," Huffington said. "That additional donation of two hundred thousand dollars for the project is going to allow us to do some additional items at the park."

Staff created the proposed park after getting input from the public. On Nov. 1 park staff met with roughly 20 residents to get feedback about the city's initial proposal. They also used info from comments about the project on

City staff also sent the park plans to representatives from United Community Builders, Rainbow House, Columbia Insurance Group, Galaxy of Stars Daycare and the Reentry Opportunity Center, who neighbor the park. United Community Builder has plans to expand it's new facility down the street from the park.

Park plans include a playground designed for children ages 5-12 years old and will include a swing set and climbing feature. There will also be a playground designed for 2- to 5-year-olds. Wood fiber mulch will be spread across the base of the playground.

The park shelter will be a metal 24-feet-by-24-feet tall and made using prefabricated metal. The shelter will house four picnic tables, electricity and water fountains and will be reservable  

The basketball court will feature a painted playing surface, two player benches and three 10-foot baskets. The donation from JBS Hometown Strong will cover the cost of LED lights at the court which will allow the park to stay open until 11 p.m. each night. 

Construction will start this summer and is estimated to be finished by spring 2025.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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