Time for the Parks Department to step it up

It’s been quite a while since the city’s Parks and Recreation Department has been in this Dog’s crosshairs, but that all changes this week.

While the Parks Department oversees some of the most beautiful municipal assets in the country, the Dog would like to offer up some constructive criticism on some long overdue maintenance issues that need some acute attention along one of the city’s most historic byways, Cliff Drive.

In 1986, a coalition of Northeast neighborhood leaders banded together and formed the Cliff Drive Task Force with the intended purpose to reclaim Cliff Drive and restore the drive to its largely original status.

That work was capped off in 1987 when a proud Parks Department, along with Neighborhood leaders, cut the ribbon on a pristine Cliff Drive.

The energy and work continued throughout the 1990s and 2000s, culminating with Cliff Drive being named Missouri’s only urban Scenic ByWay on June 2, 2000.

With that title came extra dollars from the state for maintenance and improvements with oversight by a citizen committee, the Cliff Drive Corridor Management Committee.

Now, four years after a major infusion of roughly $900,000 in improvements, Cliff Drive is once again starting to show her age and not in a good way.

Those improvements included new stairways, walking paths connecting the drive with the Columbus Park area the rebuilding of several of the stone walls along the byway.
Our noon-time constitutionals along the western end of the drive have turned up a number of issues directly related to the poor maintenance practices of the Parks Department and the lack of attention to detail by the city’s contracted mowing crews.

Some of those issues include:


a.) Mowing, issue A, Cliff Drive. Where there were once small glades where wildlife regularly grazed are now overgrown with weeds.

 


b.) Mowing Issue B, Cliff Drive. Retaining walls are regularly overgrown with weeds and vines, hiding the decorative stone wall as well as the hand-laid limestone curbs along the drive.

 


c.) Mowing Issue C, Cliff Drive. Grassy areas along both sides of the drive are a hot mess. Mowing is hit-and-miss at best and when done, done sloppily and without any trimming around light poles or curbs.

 


d.) Mowing issue D, Cliff Drive, Chestnut Trwy. Where there was once a discernible line between forest and parkway has now been overgrown with weeds that often reach 8 feet in height.

 


e.) Mowing issue E, Concourse Park. Apparently this is what passes for acceptable when it comes to mowing in a city park. This looks more like a poorly harvested alfalfa field than a city park, especially with grass clippings and litter blown in the street by the contractor.


f.) Maintenance, Cliff Drive gates. Gates at all of the entrances are bent, broken or in general disrepair.

g.) Trash & Litter. Trash, construction debris, and litter continue to be dumped with relative immunity along Cliff Drive. The Dog gets that it’s impossible to catch everyone. That said, regular tours by Parks maintenance crews relieving the drive of said debris would go a long way on improvements.

h.) General Maintenance. Trails once cleared and maintained are now largely overgrown and used not so much by cyclists and hikers but by vagrants and transients.
The Dog would like to challenge the Parks Department and the Parks Board to step up their game. The citizens of Kansas City and the residents of the Historic Northeast community deserve better, especially when it comes to maintenance along Cliff Drive and Kessler Park, the park named for the original architect of the city’s Parks and Boulevard system.

The Parks Department likes to make a lot of PR hay out of their connection to Kessler, but right now, we just ain’t feelin that love.

To that end, this community-minded News-pooch never likes to point out a problem without proposing some possible solutions to the above noted maintenance gaps.

A.) C-CAP Workers. The use of non-violent offenders by neighborhood associations is not a new concept. Four hours of work on a Saturday morning by four C-CAP people equates to sixteen man-hours of work the Parks Department doesn’t have to pay for. The only requirement for that resource is a supervisor who can sign off on the work for their probation officer. This is a never-ending resource of young people working off fines to keep their backside out of the pokey.

B.) Incentivize the help. We’re relatively certain the Brass Hats at the Parks Department and on the Parks Board get event tickets to such venues as Starlight Theater or the Sprint Center. How about turnin’ loose of some of those hotly-coveted perks to some of the community volunteers who take it upon themselves to do clean ups in the city’s parks. While we’re on the subject of community appreciation…

C.) Back in the 1990s, the Parks Department showed their appreciation to those who volunteer in the city’s parks by throwing a party and BBQ in Swope Park in their honor. Hundreds of volunteers were recognized for their tireless volunteer work in the city’s parks. Such an action would go a long way in terms of in the community knowing the city’s parks board and Parks Department strongly supported their volunteer actions.

Lastly, the Dog would offer the cooperation and assistance of countless volunteers from the Historic Northeast community in keeping things in ship shape. There’s a renewed effort in the community to ensure that Cliff Drive maintains its rightful place in the city’s parks and boulevard system. With a new mayor and a new City Council, the time is now to push the reset button.

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