A crew of neighbors worked together Thursday, Feb. 6 to help salvage the remaining playground equipment from being demolished at Chouteau Courts.
Members of Emerging Builders, a construction apprenticeship program, alongside Northeast residents, donned vests and hardhats to disassemble the playground equipment that is now surrounded by debris from the razed apartment buildings.
Whitney Barnardo, former Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association president, said the attempt to save the playground equipment has been ongoing since July 2018.
Barnardo said she put in a request to the Housing Authority of Kansas City to remove the playground equipment before demolition on the apartment buildings began, but was told there were other plans for the equipment.
As the buildings started to be demolished during the last few months of 2019, Barnardo said she noticed the playground equipment was still there— sharing the same fate as the crumbled buildings.
After reaching out to the Housing Authority once more, Barnardo said she was given permission to remove the playground equipment but was now under time constraints and less-than-ideal working conditions.
“It’s unfortunate but I am hoping we are saving them from sudden death,” said Barnardo.
John Monroe, director of Planning and Development at the Housing Authority, said the intent was to use the equipment elsewhere.
“When [the neighborhood] first suggested we give it to them, we all thought it was a great idea, but then our staff here decided they were going to relocate the equipment and use it at another public housing site. We have a lot of low-income families at other sites which need that equipment.”
Monroe said he was unaware the equipment had not been moved until Barnardo reached out one more time.
“I didn’t know it hadn’t been moved until I got an email saying the equipment was being destroyed. I was kind of upset about it, too, because I didn’t know. That was the whole plan, to reuse it; we certainly didn’t want any of it wasted,” he said.
On Thursday, Feb. 6, the crew of neighbors worked tirelessly to remove portions of the playground equipment.
They are working to salvage one large playground set and a second, smaller set.
Barnardo said if successfully removed and relocated, the equipment will be a great asset to families in the neighborhood.
“Look at how much Garfield Elementary changes the landscape for a lot of our community children… A lot of people don’t have money to spend on summer programs so having that playground equipment accessible makes a difference,” she said.
Barnardo said she has a few locations in mind as a location for the new sets, but nothing has been secured.
Neighbors will be going back to the Chouteau Courts site again on Tuesday, Feb. 11 to remove the remaining equipment.
Overall, Barnardo said the unity she has seen from neighbors for this common goal is a win for the community.
“At the end of the day, it’s a huge success story to just be able to say there are people who feel really passionately about this that are out there doing this. Going out there, sweating, and doing that kind of work for the greater good is very commendable.”