Sixty minutes. That’s how much physical activity kids need every day. It’s good for their physical, mental and emotional health. But getting 60 minutes is impossible for many Kansas City kids who don’t have clean, safe parks and recreational facilities in their neighborhoods.
In fact, in Jackson County only 59% of the population lives within a half mile of a park, and in Johnson County, 54% do. Rural counties have significantly less access to parks. But as you would expect, getting funding to build a new park or renovate an existing one is not an easy task.
Take Gillham Park for example. Its 60 acres run alongside Gillham Road in Kansas City, Missouri, just east of the midtown area. It was created between 1899-1902, and while there actually is no official Gillham Park, the area is filled with play areas and open spaces.
The city has put $600,000 into renovations over the last 10 years. Landscaping, brush removal, a new playground, and surface and turf maintenance were directed by a 2003 report and a 2005 master plan. The upgrades were made possible by grant funding and people who donated materials and labor.
Currently, officials are seeking funding from the Public Improvement Advisory Committee to replace the 1970s era wading pool with a sprayground, because the pool is beyond repair. The advisory committee oversees a part of Kansas City’s capital improvements budget and is a common source of funding for park renovations. If a project request is approved, the city council votes to allocate the money to the project.
Despite the difficulties of park renovation, many parks in the Kansas City metro area have been built or renovated in the past five years or so. Here are some you’ll want check out!
1. Franklin Park, Roe Avenue and Somerset Drive, Prairie Village KS
This shade-filled park was renovated in 2011 as part of a master plan. The approximately $1 million upgrade included permanent restrooms, a picnic shelter with grills, and a natural play area with a stream.
2. Jersey Creek Park, 1251 Parallel Parkway, KCK
Nearly $50,000 in donations brought benches, bike racks and exercise stations designed by University of Kansas School of Architecture, Design & Planning students, to this long-neglected park this spring. The revival is bringing walkers, cyclists, community groups and churches together to host activities and plan further improvements.
3. Rosedale Park, 4100 Mission Road, KCK
KC Healthy Kids partnered with Rosedale Development Association to healthy community initiatives through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Rosedale Park, which sits on a heavily trafficked section of Mission Road, lacked safe access by foot or bicycle. Now, a sidewalk, crosswalks, signs and new paint have created a safe route to the park. Obviously, it’s a huge improvement over the dirt path that residents had worn trying to get to the park.
4. Arbor Villa Park, East 66th and Main, KCMO
Check out the improvements in this small park packed with fun things to do. Already unique with its historic arbor and toddler pool, park-goers can now enjoy a new tennis court, exercise equipment, accessible amenities and playground updates including a new climbing structure and soft hills for creative play. The changes are part of a three-year effort to renovate the park to appeal people of all abilities. The project was funded through PIAC grants and the Parks & Recreation Department.
5. Blue Hills Park, 53rd Street and Brooklyn Avenue, KCMO
This 10-acre park in Maya’s Blue Hills neighborhood was updated in 2011. New and improved features include a basketball court, resurfaced tennis court, walking trails, fencing around the ball diamond, renovated shelter, grills and picnic tables, bicycle racks, restrooms, water fountains and extensive lighting.
6. Ivanhoe and Jim Nutter Park, 43rd Street and Brooklyn Avenue, KCMO
KC Healthy Kids partnered with Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council to fund park initiatives through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. What used to be a blighted, vacant lot is now Jim Nutter Park in Ivanhoe.
7. Roanoke Park, Valentine Road to 34th Street and Karnes Boulevard, KCMO
Roanoake Park is a rugged strip of land acquired by the Board of Park Commissioners from 1901-1923 and much of it remains wild, with native trees and a natural spring. It’s easy to see why people in the surrounding communities love the park and have worked tirelessly to preserve and improve it. Over the last five years, the Roanoke Park Conservancy has organized volunteers and garnered donations of money and in-kind professional services to leverage support from the PIAC committee to secure city funding for new sidewalks, pedestrian lighting, volleyball court upgrades, storm drain repairs, and an incredible new playground that opened on April 30, 2016.
8. Seven Oaks Park, 39th Street and Kensington Avenue, KCMO
A spray park is the newest addition to the expansive green space of Seven Oaks Park, thanks to efforts by neighbors like Gwen Davis, executive director for the Seven Oaks Neighborhood Association. She’s lived at her home on Cypress Avenue for 40 years. A few years back, a trip to Italy inspired her. Her tour bus passed a park packed with people, the kids were swimming and people were laying out reading books. She wanted that sense of community for her neighborhood, so she worked to get the spray park built.
Don’t see your favorite newly-renovated park on our list? Tell Us About It