By LESLIE COLLINS
September 26, 2012
Cliff Drive Scenic Byway is the only Missouri scenic byway nestled in an urban area, and it continues to be a hidden gem in Kansas City.
The 4.27-mile drive winds through the Indian Mound and Pendleton Heights neighborhoods and features limestone bluffs, natural vegetation and a variety of wildlife.
It’s a hidden treasure that needs to be discovered and utilized, said Pam Portwood, director of the Wakulla County (Fla.) Tourist Development Council and program coordinator of the Big Bend Scenic Byway in Crawfordville, Fla.
Earlier this summer, the Cliff Drive Corridor Management Committee, the advisory board for the byway, used a grant to hire Portwood as a peer adviser to compile a report of the community’s feedback for improving the byway.
In addition to gathering community comments, Portwood listed her top issues with Cliff Drive and her recommendations for remedying each issue.
One of her top concerns regarded Cliff Drive’s closure to vehicle traffic. The issue has divided the Corridor Management Committee and neighborhood association representatives, she said. Earlier this year, several members of the committee proposed extending the number of days Cliff Drive is closed to vehicle traffic, and community opposition ensued.
“This has caused some concern that public participation requirements were not being met regarding Cliff Drive Scenic Byway,” Portwood said in her report. “Additionally, closure to traffic appears to be in conflict with the early goals/objectives outlined in the Byway Corridor Management Plan (CMP).”
The closure to vehicles debate will likely remain a “stumbling block to revitalizing the committee, updating the CMP, and ultimately realizing the vision for the Cliff Drive Scenic Byway” until the public is assured their feedback will be taken into consideration before final decisions are made, she said.
Corridor Management Committee President Adam Schieber did not return repeated phone calls for this story. Northeast News also contacted Corridor Management Committee Vice President Will Royster, but did not receive comments by press time.
Catherine Morris, a member of the Corridor Management Committee, responded to Northeast News via email and said Schieber announced during the August meeting that additional closures on Cliff Drive would be placed on the “back burner” to focus on other projects, like the connection of Cliff Drive to the Riverfront Heritage Trail. Schieber cancelled the most recent committee meeting scheduled for Sept. 18 at the last minute, and Morris said the committee has not had time to discuss the peer advisor report findings.
To address the issue of closing Cliff Drive to vehicles, Portwood recommended that the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department review community feedback from the peer advisor meetings and host a public workshop to address concerns that were discussed, like safety, illegal dumping and other illegal activities along the drive.
“The workshop should be a facilitated discussion to gain consensus on how to make the byway more accessible for appropriate/legitimate activity without compromising byway safety and resource protection (from dumping activities),” Portwood said.
Portwood’s second issue regarded the lack of community-wide participation on the current Corridor Management Committee. To foster diverse community involvement, Parks and Recreation should take the lead in revitalizing the Corridor Management Committee and coordinate bureaucratic activities of the committee, she said. Other recommendations included having the committee reach out to those who participated in the peer advisor meetings; committee members assigning and reporting the status of action items in the CMP and the Cliff Drive Community Tourism and Interpretive Plan (CTIP); having Parks and Recreation staff members participate in and attend committee meetings; committee members should identify neighborhood associations and other stakeholders currently not represented on the committee; and inviting stakeholder representatives to a public workshop/forum on Cliff Drive.
Northeast News contacted the Parks and Recreation Department and Director Mark McHenry agreed the department needs to participate more in the meetings.
“It’s time to step back up again and get more engaged,” he said.
Portwood also said that updating the 12-year-old CMP should be a priority of both the Parks and Recreation and the Corridor Management Committee and that Cliff Drive should be marketed more not only in surrounding neighborhoods but in the Greater Kansas City area. Cross marketing with other Kansas City attractions and activities was another recommendation.
Earlier this summer, Portwood organized three public meetings and included the community feedback in her report. Public comments included addressing illegal dumping along the drive; installing mile markers to aid in 911 and 311 calls; installing speed bumps for speeding vehicles; develop walking and biking trails; a variety of marketing strategies, among other ideas. Community members also pointed out how the Cliff Drive website hasn’t been updated since 2010 and that there needs to be better communication and more community involvement in the Cliff Drive Corridor Management Committee.
As for trash along the drive, the city visits the drive at least three days a week to pick up trash, said Scott Overbay of the Parks and Recreation Department. Cleaning up illegal dumping along the overlooks requires additional resources, he said. Currently, the city is focused on fall leaf and brush cleanup and won’t be able to focus on cleaning the overlooks until the winter months, he said. Parks and Recreation is also working to install cameras at popular dumping sites along the drive. Cameras used to be located along the drive, but were moved to other parts of the city, he said.
While it’s not in the budget to install permanent mile markers along the drive, a temporary and feasible solution would be to paint mile markers on the drive, Overbay said.
Parks and Recreation has also applied for Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC) funding to match a grant from the National Scenic Byways Program. The grant total is $641,990 and would be used to repair stone walls along the drive, add share the road signage, install additional trails for biking and walking, and install fencing at the overlooks.
Installing fencing at the overlooks would help alleviate illegal dumping, he said.
Peer Advisor’s Top Issues with Cliff Drive
•Proposals for Cliff Drive closures to vehicle traffic continues to divide the Cliff Drive Corridor Management Committee and neighborhood association representatives
•A lack of community-wide participation in the Corridor Management Committee
•Outdated Corridor Management Plan
•Cliff Drive continues to be a “hidden treasure” and needs increased marketing