"They are destroying my property."
COLUMBIA, 4/30/13 (Beat Byte) -- Backed by the power of eminent domain, Federally-funded GetAbout Columbia may be getting belligerent about a new trail.A brewing battle over the $854,000 trail -- designed to connect Moon Valley Road with Old 63 in east Columbia -- has rallied neighbors who fear haphazard tree removal, soil erosion, Hinkson Creek runoff, and harm to private property.
"They made it very clear to us from the start that they were going to do whatever they wanted with our property and there was nothing we could do to stop them," wrote Rachelle McCoy on a public Facebook post, about land her family owns near the new GetAbout pedway. "They pointed at my mom and SPECIFICALLY said to us, 'We know who you are! We know you're a lawyer, and there is NOTHING you can do.'"
McCoy's mother, Lorri Kline, is a Columbia-based attorney.
Retired public works supervisor Bill Weitkemper meanwhile accused city officials of a bait and switch over a meeting at the trail site he arranged with other interested parties. "Hopefully we can address everyone's comments in the time we've set aside," GetAbout Columbia program engineer Clifford Jarvis emailed Weitkemper.
But during the meeting, Jarvis and David Bugg, a public works project manager, declined to take questions from most of the group, Weitkemper emailed Columbia city manager Mike Matthes and Sixth Ward City Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe.
"The first thing Mr. Bugg stated was that he would only take questions from Hoppe, Barbara Wren, and Sutu Forte. No questions would be allowed from anyone else," Weitkemper told Matthes and Hoppe. "Mr. Bugg's attitude was unacceptable. I could not believe he announced to seven Columbia citizens, including a Council member, that he would not take questions from four of the group."
The GetAbout site is on a creek upstream from Wren's home, and she fears floodwater and runoff after trees are lost to the trail. With Forte, Wren has established It's Our Wild Nature to increase public awareness about un-trailed green space.
"If a car dealer clear-cuts property, there is a community outrage," Wren told the Heart Beat. " Why is it better to destroy nature in the name of pedestrian transportation?"
Lorri Kline has the same worry. "They are destroying my property for this trail," she wrote on Facebook.