Park and Trail Safety Tips

Park Ranger on bicycle patrol

Trail Etiquette, Rules and Regulations

cartoon trail joggers

Rules and Etiquette

  • Keep right, pass on the left, move off the trail when stopping.
  • Operate a bicycle at a speed that is reasonable and prudent under existing conditions (City Ord. 17-141)
  • Be courteous, yield appropriately, announce your approach. Bicyclists traveling downhill should yield to uphill traffic. Be predictable, use hand signals, equip bikes with a white front light and red taillight for travel before dawn and after dusk.
  • Be respectful of private property.
  • Bike helmets are required for persons fifteen (15) years of age and younger. (City Ord. 14-509)
  • Dogs must be on a leash and reined in to within four (4) feet. Dog handlers must clean up after their dogs and dispose of dog waste in a sanitary manner. (City Ord. 17-143)
  • Use authorized trails. Respect closures. Minimize trail erosion by avoiding muddy trails and shortcuts.
  • Don’t litter. Pack out what you pack in.
  • Trail hours: 6am-11pm.

Prohibited Activities

  • Motorized equipment is prohibited, except: official and emergency vehicles, powered mobility devices for persons with disabilities, and pedal-assisted bicycles.
  • Trail users may not disturb or remove any plants, animals or other property. (City Ord. 17-52)
  • Other prohibited activities include: camping, trapping, horseback riding, hunting, and advertising.

Emergency Numbers

  • For trail emergencies, dial 911.
  • Park Rangers can be contacted via the non-emergency police number at (573) 442-6131.
  • Report trail maintenance items online or call (573)-874-7201.

Official City Ordinances regarding City Trails


Trail Safety Tips

Smart trail use includes adherence to some basic safety practices. Trails are shared recreation amenities and are accessed by a variety of users at the same time. Please be courteous to all users, and remember that pedestrians have the right-of-way. All trail users should stay to the right on the trail.

joggers
  • Tell friends or family the route you’ll be taking, and always travel with a partner, when possible.
  • Be sure to carry identification (which includes name, phone number, and pertinent medical information). Always have a record of your bicycle serial number .
  • Make use of cell phone harnesses or carriers.
  • Keep valuables such as cell phones and wallets hidden.
  • Carry a whistle or noisemaker.
  • If you  wear a headset to listen to music, keep one ear free so that you can hear those coming up behind you.
  • Always carry tools to repair minor bike issues and have supplies to change a flat tire.
  • Avoid unfamiliar areas when on the trails alone.
  • Prior to using a new trail, take the time to familiarize yourself with the trail and plan your route.
  • Stay alert, be observant about your surroundings, and avoid areas where visibility is poor.
  • Use discretion when acknowledging strangers, and follow your intuition about unfamiliar people and areas.
  • Bicyclists should pull off the trail when stopping to avoid a possible accident.
  • Bicyclists approaching pedestrians should make an advanced noise using voice, bell, or horn to avoid startling walkers.  Many people loudly exclaim “On your left” as they pass by.
  • Bicyclists should always wear a helmet and ride at speeds suitable for the trail conditions. 
  • If you use the trail at night, make sure you have the appropriate lights and reflective clothes. 
  • Horses are not allowed on trails managed by Columbia Parks and Recreation Department.

Bicycle Safety Tips

black silhouette bicyclist
  • Wear proper safety equipment (i.e., helmet). (City Ordinance 14-509 regarding bicycle helmets)
  • See and be seen, wear highly visible clothing.
  • If you ride at night, wear reflective clothing and have a headlight and taillight.
  • Stay alert. Expect the unexpected.
  • Exercise caution and constantly be aware of the traffic around you.
  • Obey all traffic laws and/or trail rules.
  • Make sure your bicycle is in good working condition.

Swimming Safety Tips

cartoon swimmer with water float

The following are general guidelines. Columbia’s pools and beaches have specific rules and regulations that are posted at each facility.

  • Only swim in designated swimming areas.
  • Be aware of local weather forecasts and conditions.
  • Make sure the water is warm enough. Children and older adults get cold faster and are subject to hypothermia at a faster rate.
  • Use only U.S. Coast Guard approved lifesaving devices such as horseshoe vests and ski jackets.
  • Do not rely upon inflatable devises such as “water wings” or “floaties,” balls or vests as lifesaving devices.
  • Do not assume because a child has had swimming lessons he/she is safe in the water. Do not leave children unsupervised.
  • Watch for physical conditions like too cold, too tired, too much sun, and too much strenuous activity.
  • Watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • Do not consume alcohol while swimming or swim after drinking.
  • Drink plenty of water and limit your time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Locations of swimming facilities


Ice Skating/Fishing Criteria for Designated City Lakes

cartoon ice skater

When conditions allow, Stephens Lake will be opened for ice skating and Cosmo-Bethel Lake will be open for ice fishing.  Stephens Lake Park is located on the corner of Broadway and Old 63 and Cosmo- Bethel Park is located at 4500 Bethel Street.  

(For updates on ice conditions, watch for announcements on the Parks and Recreation home page.)

Before the City allows skating or ice fishing, there must be a minimum of four inches of solid ice before any public announcement is made. Ice depth is checked by drilling holes through the ice at several locations beginning from the shoreline and working toward the center. The ice is not checked on the weekends, holidays or evenings, so users should be aware that ice that was determined safe one day, may not be safe the next. Please refer to signs at the lake to find out when it is open for skating.

Many factors affect ice quality. Ice is subject to variable freezing temperatures from above, and yet subject to constant thawing temperatures from below due to water temperatures in the 40-degree Fahrenheit range. Wind-whipped water, areas where there is any water movement due to either overland runoff or underground springs, and shaded or sunny areas, all lead to freezing and thawing conditions. Snow is another contributing problem, as snow cover acts as an insulator and ice may actually begin to melt despite freezing temperatures.

Remember that even when Stephens or Cosmo-Bethel Lake is determined to meet the criteria for skating or fishing, never do these activities alone and do not gather in large groups on one spot. Do not be on the ice after dark, and please warn other users of dangerous conditions. It is a good idea to have a rope, ladder, or pole available, which could be extended to a victim in an emergency. Hypothermia, the rapid cooling of a person’s body, can result in death. When it comes to ice, please remember one rule….there is no such thing as safe ice!

When Stephens or Cosmo-Bethel Lake is determined to meet the criteria for skating or fishing, the following signs will be posted at each lake  – “Ice Skating Tips – Stephens Lake Park  and “Ice Fishing Tips – Cosmo-Bethel Park “

Cosmo-Bethel Winter Trout Fishing Program

Winter Sports at Stephens Lake Park


Ice Skating Safety Tips – Stephens lake Park

Below is the sign posted when Stephens Lake is determined to meet the criteria for skating.

Ice Safety Tips sign at Stephens Lake ParkThe ice has been checked and when inspected was at least 4 inches thick. However, please be aware that conditions may change. Please follow these safety tips.

Skate at your own risk. Remember, you take a risk anytime you go onto the ice.
  • Ice thickness is not consistent. Water currents, particularly around narrow spots, bridges, inlets and outlets, are always suspect for thin ice.
  • NEVER skate alone. Always have at least two people present.
  • Children should NEVER be allowed to skate on a pond unsupervised.
  • Beware of ice around partially submerged objects, such as trees, logs, brush, embankments or dam structures.
  • Skating not allowed after dark.
  • Do not congregate in one area.
  • Stay away from cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas that signify thinner ice.
  • Ice fishing is not allowed.

Winter Sports at Stephens Lake Park


Ice Fishing Safety Tips – Cosmo-Bethel Park, 4500 Bethel St.

The following sign will be posted on site when Cosmo-Bethel Lake is determined to meet the criteria for fishing:

The ice has been checked and when inspected was at least 4 inches thick. However, please be aware that conditions may change. Please follow these safety tips.

  • Fish at your own risk.
  • Ice thickness is not consistent. Water currents, particularly around narrow spots, bridges, inlets and outlets, are always suspect for thin ice.
  • New ice is usually stronger than old ice. As the ice ages, the bond between the crystals decays, making it weaker, even if melting has not occurred.
  • Beware of ice covered with snow. Snow can insulate ice and keep it strong, but can also insulate it to keep it from freezing. Snow can also hide cracks, weaken and open ice.
  • Slush is a danger sign, indicating that ice is no longer freezing from the bottom and can be weak or deteriorating. NEVER fish alone. Always have at least two people present.
  • Children should NEVER be allowed to ice fish on a pond unsupervised.
  • Beware of ice around partially submerged objects, such as trees, logs, brush, embankments or dam structures.
  • Fish only during daylight hours. Fishing is prohibited after dusk.
  • Do not congregate in one area.
  • Stay away from cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas that signify thinner ice.
  • Skating is not allowed.

Cosmo-Bethel Winter Trout Fishing Program


Sledding Safety Tips – Stephens Lake Park

cartoon kid sledders

Columbia’s sled hill is located at Stephens Lake Park, 2001 East Broadway. The sled hill is open when there is a minimum of 4-6″ of snow cover.

  • Inspect the sledding course for hazards. Trees, fences, rocks and telephone poles may cause injuries. Hay or straw bales might not always protect you from injuries.
  • Make sure that the bottom of the hill is long enough for the sled to stop safely.
  • Select age-appropriate sized hills, avoiding steep inclines for small children.
  • Never sled near traffic, roads, parking lots, rivers or bodies of water.
  • Never sled alone. Small children should always be accompanied by an adult.
  • Insist that children wear bicycle helmets when sledding.
  • Use the proper equipment. Do not use sheets of metal, pieces of wood, etc., for sleds.
  • Use the equipment properly. Don’t stand or put more people on the sled than what it was designed for.
  • If an adult rides on a sled with a child, the adult should sit with the child seated snugly in front, between the adult’s legs.
  • Avoid sledding over snow bumps or anything that may cause the sled to become airborne.
  • Only sled during daylight hours.
  • Do not sled on icy hills. Sledding hills should be only snow covered.
  • Stay alert, keep your eyes open and use common sense.
  • When going back up the hill, walk to the side of it, away from oncoming sleds.
  • Dress appropriately.

Winter Sports at Stephens Lake Park