St. Martins is getting more park land that city officials feel will benefit future generations of residents.
City leaders recently approved the purchase of 9.3 acres and a single-family dwelling that borders the south side of Niekamp Park and can be reached off of Business 50 West via Traci Drive, City Administrator Doug Reece said.
The purchase price was $215,000 including the home, which will be sold and the proceeds put in St. Martins' reserve funds, which paid for the land.
"We plan to sell the house and approximately 1 acre and use the remaining 8.3 acres to expand Niekamp from 4.5 acres to 12.8 acres," Reece said. "Additional parking has long been needed at Niekamp, and this area will solve that problem."
Niekamp Park currently has two pavilions, a playground, restrooms, and a 1/3-mile trail with 10 benches.
The Niekamp Park Trail, completed in 2015, was the first phase of the city's long-range plan to connect Niekamp Park with Business 50 West, Reece said.
"Phase 2 was a connector trail from Niekamp to Business 50, which this purchase will help complete," Reece said. "Phase 3 was a bike lane/pedestrian walkway through St. Martins, which would connect with the sidewalk/greenway Cole County will complete in 2020, which we got the funding for on Jan. 4 from MoDOT."
Reece referred to a Missouri Department of Transportation Alternatives Program grant of $397,000 to fund safety enhancements for pedestrians, bicyclists and people using motorized wheelchairs. The grant will cover 1.1 miles of work through the heart of St. Martins. Engineering will begin this year, followed by the bidding process. The work should be completed before classes start at St. Martin Catholic School in August 2020.
"The opportunity to get the park land happened fast; and while the timing wasn't ideal with all the other things going on, we felt it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we had to act on or Niekamp would be landlocked indefinitely," Reece said.
This area will be developed as funds become available.
The city hopes to add another pavilion, possibly more playground equipment, a trail addition with benches to increase the total length to 1 mile with a connection to Business 50, and possibly a Frisbee golf course, Reece said.
"St. Martins has been in existence since 1827, but two of the biggest events in our history have occurred in 2019 with the MoDOT grant and the purchase of this property on Jan. 14," he said. "These improvements are being done with money St. Martins has been saving for many years for the park property and with help from Cole County and MoDOT for the Business 50 improvements. No debt will be incurred, and no tax increases are planned to fund the work."