Closing the gates to clean up Cliff Drive?

Posted August 5, 2014 at 11:00 pm

By Joe Jarosz
Northeast News
August 6, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Is it time to close the gates of Cliff Drive?

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Eradicating invasive honeysuckle. This past Saturday, about 80 high school students from the St. Paul, Minn., area came to Kansas City, Mo., as part of a service project. The group helped remove invasive honeysuckle along Cliff Drive. Joe Jarosz

One member of the Cliff Drive Management Corridor Committee thinks it is time.

Brett Shoffner, executive director for the committee, said the idea to close the four gates leading onto Cliff Drive has been discussed for years. This past June, the committee voted for a permanent closure of the gates. Now, the committee is asking Northeast residents to sign a petition supporting the closure.

“I want people to know that this decision was not taken lightly,” Shoffner said. “We [the committee] exhausted all resources possible on trying to find the appropriate funding mechanisms to keep the gates open. We’re working on securing longterm funding to better care for the area.”

The petition, located online at http://www.cliffdrivekc.org/news/, reads that the scenic bi-way serves as a “perpetual dumping ground for illegal dumping by contractors and regional residents.” The positives of closing the gates, Shoffner said, would be curbing the illegal activity – prostitution, drag racing and drug use – that transpires on a daily basis.

The downside, though, would be especially rough for the elderly residents who enjoy the scenic bi-way. Shoffner said the committee is asking about the possibilities of allowing scooters or golf carts under 50 cc.

“It would basically be made into a four-mile walking and cycling zone,” Shoffner said. “People would have an open street without fear of drivers.”

Last month, a four-day clean-up by the National Youth Conference For the Evangelical Free Church of America collected over 3,000 bags of trash, over 2,700 tires and eradicated one acre of invasive honeysuckle. Shoffner said the group’s diligent work barely made a dent. As of July 28, 2014, volunteers worked 3,489 hours to help make Cliff Drive and Kessler Park a cleaner and safer place for all people to enjoy. There are currently six working cameras, as well, to monitor for illegal dumping.

And although the petition states, “Permanently Close the Gates on Cliff Drive in Kessler Park” Shoffner admits the committee would ideally need about three years to clean the area.

“It would be until we get it to what it should be,” Shoffner said.

In the short time the petition has been available to the public, Shoffner said the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Of the 1,500 signatures needs, the petition already has 1,200.

“We’ve have good support from Parks [and Recreation] staff, city council members and residents of the Northeast,” Shoffner said. “I tell people it’s like we’re taking an old mansion and rehabbing it over a couple of years. It’s not safe to the public and we’d be closing it to the people that are causing the most problems.”