June 7, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – After a recent string of violent crimes and facing the advent of summer, the Kansas City, Missouri, City Council’s Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee unanimously approved a resolution and ordinance that includes uniform open park hours from 5 a.m. to midnight across Kansas City’s 221 parks on Wednesday.
The resolution calls for a task force to look at the issue of park safety. Vice Chair of the committee, 4th District Councilwoman Katheryn Shields, spoke in favor of the new park safety measures. Shields supported the suggestion from the Parks and Recreation Department and the Parks Board to limit Kansas City park hours from 5:00 a.m. until midnight, and to standardize the hours throughout all City parks so that residents throughout the city understand the new rules.
“I am in total agreement with both of those suggestions,” Shields said,
Shields also suggested that the adoption of park hours, which initially extended for just six months, be extended until an entire parks safety plan can be approved.
Constituents of Kansas City, Missouri, shared their concerns with the committee. One resident of the Parkway Towers Condominiums (4545 Wornall Rd.) voiced concerns about the safety of visitors to Mill Creek Park, saying visitors from surrounding hotels and restaurants are vulnerable in the late evening.
Like others in attendance, 3rd District Councilman Quinton Lucas said this ordinance will add an important tool for police officers responding to suspicious activity in parks at night.
“Now if you run into someone at 2 a.m. in a park or somewhere in our city, you have a reason to engage, you have a reason to discuss with them, and you have a reason to investigate what’s going on,” Lucas said.
Councilman Scott Taylor of the 6th District also testified.
“Every park, the surrounding neighborhoods are what we’re focused on, and we want to keep our neighborhoods strong and keep addressing issues,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he looks forward to this as a continued improvement of the parks system, which previously had no uniform park hours, unlike surrounding communities in the metropolitan area.
Concerns from the public included the homeless population that sleeps in the parks, illegal activity that takes place in parks at night and recent violent crimes throughout the city. Many were in agreement that the ordinance and resolution will be an important tool for police, but some were concerned about scheduled programs that run after the park’s hours. The committee suggested looking into a permit process for after-hours use in the future.
Independence Plaza Neighborhood Association President Tom Ribera was in support of the committee’s recommendations, suggesting that the Neighborhood and Public Safety Committee work with the various neighborhood associations throughout the city to streamline the process.
Community activist Pat Clarke said parks are a place to go for urban core youth, and the city needs to work on keeping the parks safe and useable. For example, he said he would like to see bathrooms and water fountains at Martin Luther King, Jr. Square Park, as well as help from the city with cleanup.
“Our parks are the reason our kids in the urban core have a place to go,” Clarke said. “We just want the same attention.”
Maria Gonzalez Thompson, who has been advocating making the same park handicap accessible, agreed that residents of the urban core need more places to go.
“We’re constantly being pushed to the back burner. They don’t want us on the plaza, and I don’t want to be there,” she said. “So if we don’t want to be there, will you make it accessible for me to be in my community?”
John Sharp, former Kansas City councilman who served as chairman of the council’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee, said that this is not a new problem. However, with the recent murders in South Kansas City, Sharp called the ordinance and resolution “common sense measures.”
The committee followed a recommendation to amend Chapter 50, Code of Ordinances, by repealing Section 50-103, relating to trespassing on golf courses and Indian Creek Greenway Trail Park.
The section was amended to include all Kansas City, Mo., parks. It will go to the City Council on Thursday, June 9 with a unanimous recommendation from the committee.
“My view is this: that it’s vital that we act,” Councilman Lucas said. “I think it’s vital that we act now. I don’t see much reason to delay. I’m glad that the Parks Department is working with us today in connection to that.”