Columbia's Douglass Park to be renovated

A Columbia park with a troubled history will receive renovations that residents say are much-needed.

Monday night, the Columbia City Council unanimously approved phase I of a comprehensive plan to renovate the park.

According to the Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation, the improvements could begin as early as next month, depending on the weather. The comprehensive renovations will initially include relocating the parking lot to Fifth Street, constructing an improved system of sidewalks, building an outdoor amphitheater for live music, and adding additional landscaping.

Phil Steinhaus of the Columbia Housing Authority was at Monday's meeting and recommended to the council to add additional security cameras to the park as part of the renovations, in order to deter crime.

Residents say Douglass Park has a reputation for violent incidents. There have been numerous shootings and other violence at the park over the past several years.

Some residents were enthusiastic about the renovations. "I don't feel safe walking or running by it," said Emily Shultz. "It would be nice to see it safe for the kids and everybody."

The comprehensive plan also include blueprints for a skate park, although it will not be constructed there during phase I of construction. The Council said that with a price tag of $50,000, it would be too expensive to build in 2013. Right now, $100,000 is appropriated towards phase I of the park renovations.

Over time, the Department of Parks and Recreation plans to include additional amenities as funds become available. Future perks could potentially include a handicapped-accessable playground and tot area, a new handball court, and a shade canopy for the amphitheater.

A spokesman from the Department of Parks and Recreation says he hopes the improvements will bring more residents in to enjoy what the park has to offer.