A quick drive through the neighborhoods of Northland-Parker, Oakland Manor and Haden Park on Wednesday lead me to believe that I had somehow teleported back to my hometown of Thayer, Mo. Unfortunately, after a thorough search of my Buick’s undercarriage, I didn’t find any sign of Doc’s flux capacitor, so I knew it couldn’t be true.
Even though I’ve lived in Columbia for two years now, the city’s diversity never ceases to amaze me. After growing up in a town with only two stoplights and 2,000 citizens, the culture shock I experienced when I first moved to Columbia was a bit overwhelming. Since I’ve been at MU, my weekly routine has never required me to venture far from urbanization.
Yet, here I was lost in the enchanted neighborhood of Northland-Parker— only a mere mile from the hustle and bustle of Business Loop 70. The roar of Columbia’s traffic was muted, shade trees surrounded the area, and most importantly—the houses had ACTUAL front yards. Although I was nearly 220 miles away from Thayer, I felt at home in the quiet neighborhood.
On this particular adventure, my friend and fellow reporter Brian Hayes and I were assigned to cover three Columbia neighborhoods and gather a better understanding of community issues and the citizens that live there. We tried contacting the neighborhood association representatives from Northland-Parker and Oakland Manor, but they never responded to our emails or returned our calls. Haden Park doesn’t even have a representative.
The first neighborhood we visited was Northland Parker. Although it was the largest of the three neighborhoods, there were no businesses to be found. That is, until we stumbled upon a house with two signs that read “Honey For Sale” and “Bee Crossing.” Immediately intrigued, we knocked on the resident’s door to inquire about the business. Unfortunately, nobody answered, but I did leave a handwritten note asking the business owner to call me back.
After we left Northland-Parker, we moved on to Oakland Manor. After driving down a few streets, we soon realized that the neighborhood was strictly residential. As a result, we decided to knock on a few doors and get a better sense of the community from the people who would know it best. The first resident we talked to was Bob Wade. With the door only half-way open, Wade proceeded to tell us that he lived on a quiet street and never had any trouble. Across the street, we approached Bobbie Jean Hollis in her open garage. She was a little more talkative and told us more about the neighborhood. Hollis had been living in her house since 1985, and she has never had any break-ins or a reported crime. She said the neighborhood contained mostly older residents with very few children running around. We could tell the neighborhood was extremely quiet with very little activity, and both Wade and Hollis seemed to like it that way.
As we drove to our third and final neighborhood of the day, we were still without a good story. After unsuccessfully trying to have a civil conversation with the employees at Homer’s Auto Repair Shop, I decided to give it one last shot and call the phone number for the Hayden Park Mobile Home Court. Nobody answered, but I decided to leave a message in the hopes that I would get a call back. Luckily, my wish was granted, and I was able to speak with Julie Reese, an employee at the Hayden Park Mobile Home Court.
Reese said the community at Haden Park only contained about 25 homes of mostly older residents that have lived there for over ten years. The residents looked out for one another, and there were no safety or crime issues to speak of. Reese said this is largely a result of their careful selection process, as applicants have to meet a certain criteria to rent one of the lots. A referral criminal background check and sexual predator search is ran on each applicant to make sure they are safe for the community.
At the end of the day, we walked away from our neighborhood investigation a little disappointed. We desperately tried to find a good story, but walked away empty handed. All three neighborhoods were very quiet and residential, without any crime or serious issues to speak of. Even though I may be a little disappointed as a reporter, I’m happy to know the residents we spoke to feel safe at home and love their communities.