Frequently Asked Questions

Park & Facility Information


Q:  Where does the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department purchase the playground
and furniture that is used in City parks?

Q:  What does the City do with old playground equipment? 

Q:  Where can I get information on playground safety standards?

Q:  What are city park hours? 

Q:  When do I need to fill out a Park Special Use Application?

Q:  What do I do if I lose or find an item in a park?

Q:  Where can I go fishing?

Q:  How are parks planned and developed?

Q:  Where can I ice skate outdoors or go sledding?

Q:  Do the golf course hours vary in the winter months?

Q:  Stephens Lake Park – Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Should we feed the waterfowl at the parks?

Q:  Are there any plans to add an aquatic facility on the south side of Columbia?

Q:  When are restrooms closed and open for the season?

Q:  Who do I contact on the weekend if I have an issue with my reservation?

Q:  Can I use a metal detector in a park?

Q:  How can I donate a tree or bench?

Q:  May we use tiki torches, campfires, or candle luminaries in parks?

Q:  Is alcohol allowed in the park?

Q: Describe Parks and Recreation’s use of Roundup?

Q: Is there a way to make the MKT Trail more usable during snow/ice events? 

Q: What has been done to educate cyclists about trail safety?

Q: What if I encounter a snake in a park or park lake?


Programs, Activities, Sports, and Events

Q:  Where can I get a copy of Leisure Times activity guide? 

Q:  Where do I get information on youth sports?

Q:  How do I register for a program or activity?

Q:  How do I find out cancellations?

Q:  What special events do you offer?

Q:  How do I find my login information to register online?

Q:  Are dogs allowed in the ballparks?

Q: Why doesn’t Columbia have an ice rink?



Q:  How do I reserve a shelter?

Q:  Can I get more picnic tables and/or trash cans set out for the shelter I have reserved?

Q:  How do I make a birthday party reservation at a city pool?

Q:  How do I reserve a ball field?

Q:  What are the hours shelters can be reserved?



Q:  Where can I get information about the City’s free mulch sites?

Q:  Do you sell theme park tickets?

Q:  Where does the City purchase the recycled-lumber benches and plaques used in the
      parks for the Memorial/Heritage Bench Program?

Q:  What is your refund policy?

Q:  Where does the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department purchase the playground equipment that is used in City parks?

A:  Most playground equipment is bid out through the City Purchasing Department to the vendors listed below.  They are listed below alphabetically. Call for product catalogs.

Burke Premier Play Environments 
Distributor:  Riggs Recreation Equipment Inc., P. O. Box 6191 Leawood, Kansas City, MO  66206

GameTime – A Playcore Company
Distributor:  Modlin Recreation Equipment, Inc., P. O. Box 50048, Denton TX  76206-0048
800-433-5347; Fax:  940-381-0463

Landscape Structures, Inc.
Distributor: Gateway Recreational Products, Inc., 4949 Caribee Drive, St. Louis, MO 63128
866-416-7529; Fax:314-416-7507

Little Tykes
Distributor: All Inclusive Recreation, P.O. Box 72., Farmington, MO 63640
866-701-9787; Fax: 573-701-9312

Miracle Recreation Equipment Company
Distributor:  Custom Play Systems, 320 Winnebago Drive, Lake Winnebago, MO  64034
888-371-7529; Fax:  816-537-8713

Park Structures
Distributor: ABCreative, Inc., 32225 West 88th St., DeSoto, KS  66018
888-222-7529, 913-583-3332; Fax:  913-583-1436; karen@abcreative.netcreate new email

Playworld Systems
Distributor:  Fry & Associates, Inc., 1501 Burlington, Suite 201, North Kansas City, MO  64116
800-444-9787; Fax:  816-221-4831; frysales@fryinc.comcreate new email

Recreation Creations Inc.
Distributor:  Bergfeld Recreation, Inc., 14100 Manchester Rd., Manchester, MO  63011
800-336-9697; Fax:  636-394-4472
Distributor:  Reese Recreation Products, 3327 N. Ridge Ave., Arlington Heights, IL  60004
800-222-2268; Fax:  847-398-1433;

Q:  What does the City do with old playground equipment?

A:  The majority of playground equipment removed from city parks no longer meets safety requirements and cannot be resold.  Most City-owned items that can be resold are auctioned on GovDeals.

Q:  Where can I get information on playground safety standards?

A:  See the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Public Playground Safety Checklist.

Q:  What are city park hours?

A:  Unless otherwise posted, the city parks are open from 6 A.M. to 11 P.M.  Cosmo Park  is open 6A.M. to 12 midnight and Columbia Skate Park within Cosmo Park is open 6 A.M. to dusk.  Both L.A. Nickell and Lake of the Woods golf courses are open 7 A.M. to dusk, weather permitting. A few parks have varying hours due to requests by the surrounding neighborhoods. Each park has its hours posted on its respective web page listed in the Park Directory.

There are seven parks where fishing is allowed before regular park hours. [more info]

Q:  Where can I get a copy of Leisure Times program guide?

A:  The publication of Columbia Parks and Recreation comes out twice a year in March and August.  Issues can be found at:

  • Parks and Rec General Offices, Gentry Building, 1 South 7th Street
  • Parks Management Center, 1507 Business Loop 70 West
  • Activity & Recreation Center, 1701 W. Ash
  • Armory Sports Center, 701 E. Ash
  • Hillcrest Community Center, 1907 Hillcrest Drive
  • Columbia Public Library, 100 West Broadway
  • Leisure Times On Line

Q:  What do I do if I lose or find an item in a park?

A:  Contact the Parks and Recreation Office at 874-7460.  Found items can be turned in at either the Parks and Recreation offices at 1 South 7th Street or the Parks Management Center at 1507 Business Loop 70 West, 874-7201.  If the item was lost at the Rainbow Softball Center, call or check the concession stand at 449-1925.

Q:  Where can I get information about the City’s free mulch sites?

A:  The City’s free mulch sites are administered through the Public Works Department. Visit their web page for information on these sites.

Q:  How are parks planned and developed?

A:  Visit this web page for the answer: Park Planning Steps

Q:  Can I get more picnic tables and/or trash cans set out for the shelter I have reserved?

A:  No.  All the picnic tables and trash cans available are set out and in use at our shelters.  Refuse dumpsters are required for all groups of 200 or more (requires 48 hr. advance notice and additional fee, contact Solid Waste, 874-6291.) Any event attracting 200 or more guests requires a Park Special Use Application.

Q:  Where can I ice skate outdoors or go sledding?

A:  When conditions allow, Stephens Lake will be opened for ice skating. (See Ice Skating Safety for more information) Columbia’s sled hill is also located at Stephens Lake Park, 2001 E. Broadway. (See Safe Sledding for more information)

Q:   Why doesn’t Columbia have an indoor ice rink? (Answer posted 12/17/2019)

There is a long history related to ice skating and attempts to develop an ice rink in Columbia.  Unfortunately, Columbia has had only one ice skating facility that provided recreational skating along with other programming needs such as small concerts.  It was originally called the Ice Chalet and occupied the location where “Lazer Lanes” is currently located. The Ice Chalet was home for the MU Ice Hockey Club team, traditional ice skating and hockey programs/lessons, as well as adult hockey and broomball leagues and tournaments.  The Ice Chalet closed in 1981, and it’s former location has been used for various indoor activities such as an antique market and currently Lazer Lanes.  In May, 2019, it was announced that the 12.5-acre lot will be redeveloped to be used for a hotel, five fast food restaurants, one restaurant-specific spot and two lots for restaurants or retail. Lazer Lanes (business owner) will move to the former MC Sports building within the Columbia Mall under the new name “Level Up.” The current facility will eventually be torn down, as the private developer has plans for the site.  

Once the Ice Chalet closed, the Parks and Recreation Department sought out a ballot issue in the early 1980’s that would have provided funds to purchase the Ice Chalet and construct a water park/wave pool. The ballot issue failed.

In the 1990’s there were several private attempts to build a new ice skating facility, but those projects folded for various reasons.  The Parks and Recreation Department was not involved with any of those projects. 

In 2000, the City of Columbia sent out requests for proposals for the construction, operation, and maintenance of an ice skating facility on Clary-Shy Park, which was to become home of the City of Columbia’s newest family recreation center.  No acceptable proposals were received. The few received had plans for a 5,000 seat arena for which there was no room for the infrastructure (parking, sewer, water, etc) required of a facility that size.

In 2005, after the opening of the Activity and Recreation Center (ARC), the City promoted a ballot issue to build a farmers market pavilion and an ice arena.  This was one of six ballot issues the city proposed, and it would have extended an eighth-cent sales tax to build a $2 million to $3 million ice rink on  land adjacent to the ARC.   Unfortunately, voters rejected this proposal. (More info is available on the Park Sales Tax webpage regarding the opens in a new window 2005 Park Sales Tax ballot issue.)

In 2006, a year after the ballot issue defeat, the City sought out RFP’s for a private developer to construct and operate different recreational facilities on the Clary-Shy Park including a basketball facility, farmers market and an ice arena.  Four groups submitted proposals: Boone Ice Group (BIG), Columbia Farmers Market (DFM), Columbia Youth Basketball Association (CYBA), and Positive Regional Impact Development Enterprise (PRIDE).  After the proposals were reviewed and a public hearing at the Park and Recreation Commission meeting was held, the Parks and Recreation Department and Commission recommended the CYBA/Rising Stars and the Farmers Market facilities for the site. The City Council held public hearings on the subject and ultimately approved a Memorandum of Understanding for both of the recommended organizations.  Unfortunately, none of the groups could secure required funding and the process was terminated in 2008. More information may be found on the  opens in a new windowClary-Shy Park History webpage.

In 2010, Boone Ice Group, an organization comprised of Columbia residents interested in bringing an ice rink to Columbia, publicly commented that it was close to making that plan come to fruition. The group formed in 2006 for the purpose of improving Columbia as a place to live, said co-founder C.K. Hoenes.  John Lamond, MU hockey club head coach, is also a member of Boone Ice Group. In an  opens in a new windowApril 26, 2010 Columbia Missourian article, “Lamond said Boone Ice Group is as close as it ever has been financially in building a rink for the city. But, the group declined to disclose who the potential investors are. There is no set date for the construction of a rink, but Lamond hopes to have one by August 2011, before the start of a new hockey season.”   No private facility has been constructed as of this time. 

In the 2013 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan,  the Parks and Recreation Department identified an ice rink as a desired facility.   With the development of the Clary-Shy Park as an agriculture area and farmers market, the best site for a future ice rink is being proposed at the 140 acre A. Perry Philips Park.  This is currently the home of our new Columbia Sports Fieldhouse, a four court basketball/volleyball facility.  Being located just off of Highway 63, it provides the visibility and access needed for a future facility.  Here’s the document as proposed in the opens PDF file opens in a new window2013 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Planopens PDF file

At this time, the concern is the operating cost of an ice rink.  Even though Washington Park Ice Arena in Jefferson City is the only ice rink in central Missouri, it’s operating budget continues to be substantially subsidized. With decreasing sales tax revenues and an austere budget forecast, the City of Columbia’s operating budget cannot subsidize the cost of operating an ice skating facility.  The following Parks and Recreation facilities that have been developed over the past several years – the ARC, MU Health Care Pavilion (hosts the Farmers Market), Gans Cross Country Course, and the Columbia Sports Fieldhouse were selected to move forward in development in part because they are all able to generate enough revenue to recover their operating costs.  

For an ice rink to be developed in Columbia, a location would need to be selected, capital funds would need to be identified for the construction of the facility and an operating pro forma would need to be prepared that demonstrates the facility is financially sustainable; and if not, City funds would need to be available to subsidize the annual operating costs. All past research conducted indicated that an annual subsidy would be required. A location is reserved in the A. Perry Philips Park Master Planopens PDF file (revised master plan approved at the March 4, 2019 Council Meeting) potentially for the development of a future ice rink (identified as “Future Recreation Facility”) should circumstances arise that would enable  the City of Columbia to move forward on the development of an ice rink in Columbia, MO.

Q:  Where can I go fishing?

A:  See Hunting & Fishing Regulations for Columbia Parks. Also, see Winter Trout Fishing at Cosmo-Bethel Park.

Q:  How do I reserve a shelter?

A:  Several shelters in various parks are reservable.  If they are not reserved, shelters are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Reservations will be taken up to 364 days in advance.  The fee is required on the date the reservation is made.  Shelter reservations may be made over the phone if paid by credit or debit card.  For more information or to reserve a shelter, call 573-874-7460 during normal business hours.  See Picnic Shelter Reservations for more information.

Q:  How do I reserve a ball field?

A:  Anyone will be permitted to reserve fields for practice where fields are available.  Teams must pay for and reserve the fields in advance.  Fees are required on the date the reservation is made and are not refundable.  If the fields are unplayable due to weather related conditions only, the field reservation can either be rescheduled or a letter of credit will be issued.  FIELDS MUST BE RESCHEDULED WITHIN ONE WORKING DAY OF RAINED OUT DATE.   You can reserve up to 2 hours maximum, but not 1 1/2 hours. Please call 874-7460 for rate information. (See also Softball/Baseball Facilities and Soccer Facilities for rental rates)

Q:  How do I find out about cancellations?

A:  In case of program or game cancellations, the information will be placed on our hotline at 573-874-7663.  Game cancellation decisions will be made at 4:00 p.m. on weekdays and between 6:00-6:30 a.m. for all other sports on the weekend and announced on KOOL, KCMQ, KFRU, KTGR, KFMZ, and KCLR radio stations.

Subscribing to the Parks & Recreation listservs will provide current information about game status or cancellations by sending the subscriber an e-mail message containing specific information.

These listservs are available for cancellation updates:

  • Soccer – Status of games on all Parks and Recreation fields.
  • Youth Baseball/Softball – Status of all Diamond Council games.
  • Adult Softball – Status of adult league games at Rainbow Softball Center.
  • Indoor Sports – Status of adult basketball, adult volleyball, and adult noon club basketball and volleyball.
  • Youth Basketball – Status of Columbia Youth Basketball Association (CYBA) games.
  • Youth Football – Status of Columbia Youth Football League (CYFL) games.
  • Youth Lacrosse – Status of Mid-Missouri Lacrosse League (MMLL) games.

You may sign up by visiting the WebMail registration page.

Q:  How do I register for a program or activity?

A:  There are five easy ways to register.  Check Leisure Times for program information.

  1. On-line: You can now register on-line for most programs and activities. The Parks & Recreation On-line Program Registration System is a simple, secure, and convenient program which allows you to locate recreational activities and register anytime or anywhere a computer with Internet access is available.
  2. Walk in:  1 S. Seventh St. – Gentry Building – Monday through Friday – 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  3. Mail in:  Call first to be sure there is available space.  This does not guarantee placement in the class activity.  A receipt and class information will be sent.  You may use your MasterCard, VISA or Discover charge cards.  Include your account number, expiration date, and signature on the mail-in form.  Make checks payable to “City of Columbia.”  Mail registration to:  Columbia Parks and Recreation, P. O. Box 6015, Columbia, MO  65205.
  4. Phone in:  573-874-7460, TTY 573-874-6395.  Phone-in registration will be accepted with your MasterCard, VISA, or Discover charge cards Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  5. Fax in:  Complete registration form and fax to 573-874-7640.  MasterCard, VISA or Discover cards only.

Q: Do the golf course hours vary in the winter months?

A: Yes, inclement weather affects whether the golf courses are open and their hours. Please call each golf course for daily hours of operation information. Lake of the Woods Golf Course – (573)474-7011 and L.A. Nickell Golf Course – (573)445-4213.

Q: Should we feed the waterfowl at the parks?

A: No, please do NOT feed the waterfowl. Parks and Recreation is working with the USDA Wildlife Service to protect the health of our park birds and wildlife. Feeding these wild animals creates dependence, promotes the spread of disease, and upsets the natural cycles. Thank you for your cooperation.

Q: Are there any plans to add an aquatic facility on the south side of Columbia?

A: The “short answer” to your question is an easy yes in that the Parks & Recreation Department has planned for a public swimming facility on the south side of Columbia for many years, although it remains unfunded. The 2013 Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Master Plan identifies two existing parks as sites for aquatic improvements: Twin Lakes Recreation Area and Philips Park. The Master Plan lists recommended capital improvements projects at both locations, however, as of 2014, both are unfunded. These projects may be considered each time the Park Sales Tax comes up for renewal.

Plans tentatively may include a new small 25 meter pool, hillside slide and sprayground at Twin Lakes, to complement recent improvements at Little Mates Cove. (See revised master plan for Twin Lakesopens PDF file )

Philips Park, which along with Gans Creek Recreation Area comprises the southeast regional park, would possibly one day feature an outdoor water park. (See Southeast Regional Park Master Planopens PDF file )

Q: When are restrooms and water fountains closed and open for the season?

A: Most non-heated park restrooms and drinking fountains are closed beginning October 15 and re-opened by April 15

We have the following ten heated restrooms that are open year-round:

  • Stephens Lake Park – 1 (Southside near Gordon Shelter)
  • Cosmo-Bethel Park – 1
  • Cosmo Park – 2 (Nickell/Lamb restroom and restroom just north of the roundabout)
  • Albert-Oakland Park – 1 (by Shelter 2)
  • MKT Trail at Scott Blvd. – 1
  • MKT Trail at Forum Blvd. – 1
  • Garth Nature Area – 1
  • Grindstone Nature Area – 1

The following water fountains are open year round:

Frozen water fountainOctober marks the time when many parks and outdoor facilities find their use decreasing with each drop of the thermometer. Park staff closes and winterizes the restrooms.

What does “winterizing” mean ? First, many park restrooms, pool bathhouses, and concession stands do not have heat. If it gets below freezing, they run the risk of water lines and valves breaking causing several thousand dollars worth of damage. Therefore, before the temperatures start to freeze, these facilities are closed and winterized by draining the water from all vulnerable lines.

When do facilities close? Generally speaking, the goal is to have all non-heated facilities closed beginning October 15. This date is a fairly standard closing date for many municipalities in Missouri. All facilities are re-opened by April 15. Some exceptions apply to special-use facilities.

When do special-use facilities close? It varies depending on the facility and use. For example, the concession/restroom facilities located at the Rainbow Softball Center, soccer and the Antimi complexes remain open until their respective seasons end, usually around the first of November. Park staff uses electric heaters to prolong the use of these facilities.

When it warms up, why don’t you unlock the restrooms? There are times when Missouri temps will be unseasonably warm even in December and January, so why aren’t the restrooms unlocked during those warm days? It’s not as simple as just turning the water back on and unlocking the door. In addition to draining the lines, all of the stainless steel valves have to be disassembled and RV antifreeze added to the lines. This takes about 8 hours of labor per each restroom and a bit longer to reassemble and safely remove the antifreeze. It is not cost efficient to close and re-open restrooms multiple times throughout the winter along with the added risk of lines freezing and breaking if staff is unable to get them re-winterized in time.

So, as you plan your events, please be aware of facility closing dates.

Q: May we use tiki torches, campfires, or candle luminaries in parks?

A: No open flames, candles or torches of any type are allowed. The Parks & Rec Department suggests that you use battery powered lights to achieve the candle luminaries effect. Sterno cans for heating food only is allowed.

Q: Is alcohol allowed in the park?

A: Alcohol is generally allowed in all city parks, except for the following which can be allowed under a permit by the Parks & Recreation Director: Paquin Park, Flat Branch Park, and Village Square Park. Sales are not permitted and alcohol cannot be consumed by minors. Alcohol is not allowed to be brought in to restricted-use areas, such as ballfield complexes and swimming pools, or other defined areas that sell concessions or require a fee for entry.

Q: Who do I contact on the weekend if I have an issue with my reservation?

A: Please contact a Park Ranger at one of the following numbers: 573-999-4583, 573-808-4870, or 573-999-7201. If you cannot reach a Park Ranger, please contact the Columbia Police Department non-emergency number at 573-442-6131.

Q: Are dogs allowed in the ballparks?

A: No, with the exception of service dogs (to assist people with disabilities).

Q: Can I use a metal detector in a park?

A: Yes, with some restrictions. Metal detectors may be used in park open space areas to find items that are lying on the surface of the ground. Digging, removal, or any damage to the ground surface to find items is NOT allowed and is prohibited by City Code.

Any items found that are not owned by the finder should be turned in to the Parks and Recreation Department’s lost and found, with the purpose of notifying and returning the item to the original owner. (See Section 17-133.) If after 30 days the item is not claimed by the owner, the finder may claim the item.

In restricted-use facilities, such as pools and athletic complexes, metal detectors are not allowed except to find a specific lost item. The manager of the facility should be notified when the item is lost. Permission to use a metal detector at these restricted-use facilities will be granted by the manager and will be at a time when the facility is open to the public and will not interfere with scheduled activities.

Q: Describe Parks and Recreation’s use of Roundup? (Answer posted 1/24/20)

The Parks and Recreation Department would be considered minimal users of glyphosate (active ingredient in Roundup) in terms of the daily maintenance of turf, landscaping and woody areas in Columbia.  It is a product used to assist with the control of unwanted weeds in park areas, landscaping beds, around tree rings, and other areas. The glyphosate products are the same mixture of chemical that a homeowner can purchase at Lowes or Home Depot.   
In addition, park staff members that apply glyphosate are licensed as Certified Pesticide Applicators through the Department of Natural Resources, or they are working with a licensed staff member in the area. This ensures that staff are correctly measuring, mixing and applying the chemical.  Parks and Recreation (P&R) staff consider glyphosate products to be a tool that supplements the overall integrated pest management program for the department.  P&R staff manually weed the majority of park landscaping beds to ensure that all weeds are removed, but the use of glyphosate has an advantage when dealing with certain situations.  For instance, the use of glyphosate is not only more effective, but is actually safer for our employees working in landscaped areas adjacent to high traffic areas since they spend less time in traffic than if they were hand weeding the beds.  The use of glyphosate also saves taxpayers hundreds of hours of labor costs versus hand weeding select landscaping beds.

P&R staff members are also very careful in terms of where glyphosate is applied in the park system.  For example, P&R staff do not use it near lake and pond edges or drains to avoid any type of contamination.  P&R staff also assesses the risk on any herbicide used and minimizes the usage to what would be considered prudent. Uncontrolled brush, trees, and weeds degrade the environment and pose a risk to public safety (traffic, pedestrians) so we use herbicides to control these areas.

It is noteworthy to mention that the EPA and World Health Organization currently state that it is not carcinogenic, although the IRAC (International Agency on Research for Cancer) states that it is “probably carcinogenic”. It is a situation P&R staff will continue to monitor in terms of the availability and use of the product.

This link to the National Pesticide Information Center provides additional information regarding the use of glyphosate.  

Q: Is there a way to make the MKT Trail more usable during snow/ice events?(Answer posted 1/24/20)
Plowing snow off any gravel trail is very difficult  due to the angle of the blade, uneven surface of the trail and normal dipping/rising from starting and stopping.  Any attempts Parks and Recreation (P&R) staff have made in the past have ended up cutting into the surface rock that resulted in quite a bit of repair grading after the trail dried out in the spring. If P&R staff is not able to immediately make repairs,  there is a risk of trail users riding on the damaged trail surface.

In terms of other ways to handle the snow on the MKT Trail, P&R staff would need to look at how it could be handled  for all of our gravel trails, so that our service is equitable for trail users of the Hinkson Creek Trail,  Bear Creek Trail and the many other gravel trails that are in the Columbia Trail  System.  A couple of different options would need to be tested for trail treatments and a determination made of how this work would fit within the schedule for plowing snow.  At our current staffing and equipment levels, staff is busy handling snow removal for our rental facilities, ARC, concrete trails, sidewalks and parking lots for parks and trails.  The Columbia Sports Fieldhouse and MU Health Care Pavilion were also recently added to the department’s priority snow removal locations.  

Snow on our gravel trails is an item that has been discussed in the past and P&R staff will continue to look at different options for improving use during snow events.  A lot of consideration also has to be made for types of snow events, depth of snow, and the anticipated rate of melting.  These conditions would be the same conditions that the Public Works Department evaluates for snow removal in the city.  Ultimately, it comes down to available resources; and at this time, it would be difficult for us to add a significant number of trails without impacting other priorities.

Q: What has been done to educate cyclists about trail safety? (Answer posted 1/24/20)

The following list includes steps the Parks and Recreation (P&R) Department has taken to promote responsible trail behavior in order to minimize trail-user conflicts:

  • MKT Scott Blvd. SignThe  opens in a new windowColumbia Trail Guideopens PDF file  includes a trail system map, rules/regulations, and safety etiquette guidelines. Trail Guides are available on our website at all major trailheads, bike shops and Parks and Recreation facilities. Guides are also distributed during outreach events at community/campus special events and all bike education classes.
  • The P&R Department recently installed 24 trailside information signs designed to educate trail users on rules/regulations and safety/etiquette . (See photo to the right of the trailside sign at Scott Blvd.)
  • Social media messages regarding responsible trail behavior are regularly posted on Columbia Parks and Recreation Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • City staff members routinely communicate with Park Patrol Volunteers and Park Rangers regarding reported trail user conflicts. 
  • Educational flyers with trail user safety messages (i.e. “limit use of earbuds to one ear to remain alert while walking”) are posted at all trailhead kiosks.
  • Department staff members participate in outreach efforts with recreational and competitive cycling groups asking for their cooperation in promoting responsible trail behavior.  

Recent trail design improvements aimed at enhancing trail safety include the following:

  • The addition of a yellow center line to paved surfaces of all trails.
  • Where the surface allows, the word “SLOW” has been stenciled onto the trail at blind corners and high traffic areas.
  • The P&R Department is in the process of installing trail speed limit signs at major access locations on the MKT Trail. Speed limit signs educate cyclists about the City Ordinance regulating trail speed to 15 MPH. The signs will be installed in spring 2020. (One of the main issues with implementing a trail speed limit ordinance is difficulty with enforcement.  Most cyclists do not use a speedometer, so they have no idea how fast they’re going.  The P&R Department is working with the Columbia Police Department to develop a plan for selected enforcement. ) 

Q: What if I encounter a snake in a park or park lake?

It’s possible to encounter a snake at one Columbia’s parks or park lakes, as Missouri is home to 47 species and subspecies of snake.  These snakes range in size from a worm-like 7 inches to 72 inches (6 feet) in length. Of these species, only five are venomous and include the timber rattlesnake (in decline statewide), western pygmy rattlesnake (southern Missouri),  massasauga rattlesnake (endangered species north central /northwest Missouri), western cottonmouth (southeastern Missouri), and the Osage copperhead (common statewide).  A couple of key points about snakes in Missouri:

  • The  opens in a new windowWildlife Code of Missouri treats snakes as a nongame species, making them a protected animal and unlawful to kill. 
  • The most common water snakes in Missouri is the Northern Watersnake which is commonly mistaken for the cottonmouth snake.  
  • Missouri snakes tend to be loaners as they compete for food.  
  • About 70% of all snakes do lay eggs, but they do not build nests. 
We encourage everyone that enjoys the outdoors to become familiar with the environment they are visiting. This includes learning about the variety of trees, shrubs, ivy, mammals, fish, fowls, and reptiles.  A good document on snakes is the  opens in a new windowSnakes of Missouriopens PDF file  guide as published by the Missouri Department of Conservation. 

Columbia Parks and Recreation treats all reports of possible venomous snakes seriously and will report a venomous snake encounter to the Missouri Department of Conservation.  They have a local agent that provides assistance on these issues.  

Otherwise, snakes do belong outdoors and can provide benefits, such as keeping pests such as rats and mice in check.  If you encounter a snake, biologist say, the best thing to do is leave it alone.  And, don’t let a snake encounter dampen your desire to spend time outdoors. There’s enough room for both humans and wildlife out there, including snakes!