Cass County Democrat Missourian

Rugged terrain, lack of funding suspend Oil Creek nature area plan in Belton

Belton’s Oil Creek areas get regular attention from an annual stream clean-up day. Much of the watershed areas are owned by the city, but can flood regularly and quickly.
Belton’s Oil Creek areas get regular attention from an annual stream clean-up day. Much of the watershed areas are owned by the city, but can flood regularly and quickly. Belton Parks and Recreation

The City of Belton is suspending a project to create a new park featuring camping and natural trail area.

In August of 2017, the Belton City Council approved a resolution to consider creating a nature area along Oil Creek on city property north of the improved portion of Oil Creek Trail between 162nd and 160th streets.

The project was proposed by Belton resident Gary Mallory, who is interested in making the most use of green space in Belton. He felt the area, which is owned by the city as a watershed, could potentially be developed for overnight camping, hiking or biking use.

“I thought it would be a good spot for a trail head,” Mallory said. “The city isn’t using it for anything and you can’t build on it because it is in a flood plain,” Mallory said.

Mallory’s vision included making connections to an existing trail system in Jackson County, and providing a place for scouting troops to do service projects and learn outdoor skills.

The city agreed to spend a period of time looking at the feasibility of essentially creating a new park in the area with these amenities. A Belton Natural Area Advisory Board spent two years looking at the project. Boy Scout troop leaders, parks staff and community members researched what it would take to make the project a reality.

In the end there were just too many safety and financial issues to make the space workable and compliant with federal ADA regulations. Belton Parks and Recreation Director Brian Welborn says the idea was good, but the costs to make it work are prohibitive.

“Oil Creek winds around, which would require us to build multiple bridges to get to the place they were interested in making a nature area. We just didn’t have the funds available to develop this park,” Welborn said.

The kinds of bridges needed for the project generally cost about $50,000 each. The project would have required at least three bridges.

The area also would have had to comply with federal Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, and be open to the public, not just Scouts. The area is also in a flood plain that tends to have quickly rising waters.

“Our concern was, if we got a group of Boy Scouts or anyone who would be using the park that it could become a dangerous situation real quick,” Welborn said. “hat’s just how it came to a dead end.”

City Manager Alexa Barton says Oil Creek is not a small runoff area.

“It is a full-fledged creek line that carries a lot of water. The terrain can be dangerous. There is also a potential problem of any bridges we do put in getting washed out,” Barton said.

The Belton parks system, which includes a total of about 300 acres, has an existing skills and camping area at Cleveland Lake. Scouts already use this space for similar activities to what was proposed at the Oil Creek Area.

Mallory says he would still like to see the area used in some way for trails and park space. He plans to keep coming up with ideas to make it work.

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