Almost 20 years ago when Missouri's MKT Nature and Fitness Trail opened, property owners adjoining the recreational park worried that they would experience an increase in crime, trespassing and vandalism, and lower property values. A 2013 University of Missouri survey of land owners indicates that they are not only happy with the trail, but think their property is more valuable because of it.
The survey was conducted by Sonja Wilhelm Stanis, assistant professor of Parks, Recreation and Tourism at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, and Hua Bai, a recent graduate of the program and a park research assistant for the City of Columbia.
Almost 150 property owners living within 200 yards of the MKT Trail near Columbia responded to the survey. Ninety-four percent said they were very satisfied (70 percent) or satisfied (24 percent) with having the MKT Trail as a neighbor.
Eighty-nine percent of the MKT neighbors indicated that the trail had improved their quality of life. Seventy-two percent said they would choose to live near a trail again if they were to move, Bai said.
“Overall, respondents ranked potential benefits of living near the MKT trail very high and potential problems of living next to the trail relatively low,” Wilhelm Stanis said. “Results indicated that promoting the trail’s benefit for non-motorized transportation, promoting community pride for the trail and better addressing people’s concerns about trail safety could increase the already high customer satisfaction levels.”
The survey also found that 23 percent of property owners used the trail 5-7 times a week, and 47 percent used it 1-4 times a week. Only 10 percent of respondents said they never used the MKT Trail.
The MKT trail is the most popular recreational multi-use trail for bicycling, hiking, jogging, walking, cross country skiing and fitness exercise in Columbia. The MKT Trail runs 8.9 miles in the right-of-way of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. The eastern 4.7 miles of the MKT Trail are managed by the City of Columbia, which links to the western 4.2 miles managed by Boone County, and connects with the Katy Trail, the longest rail-trail (over 200 miles) in the United States. The City-owned portion of the MKT Trail begins in downtown Columbia in Flat Branch Park and extends to the southwest edge of the city at Scott Blvd.
Three out of four respondents bought their home during or after the MKT Trail development. Of those residents, 77 percent indicated that the trail had a positive influence on their purchasing decisions. Seventeen percent reported that the trail had no influence on their decisions, although they were aware of the trail. A small portion of respondents (five percent) indicated the trail had no influence as they were not aware of the trail. Seventy-one percent of property owners believed the trail will make their property easier to sell.
The survey asked about crime along the trail. Ninety-two percent of respondents reported nothing stolen or vandalized by a trail user. Four percent reported that they had suffered theft from their property, three reported their property had been vandalized, and two percent had reported both.