KC parks department cleans up Cliff Drive in Kansas City Northeast neighborhood
Photos by Abby Hoover

Following attempts by neighbors to get the Kansas City Park and Recreation Department to address a homeless camp just inside Gate One of Cliff Drive, a comprehensive clean up strategy was created last week.

Park department managers from across the city, KC Parks ambassadors, Kansas City police, Park rangers, and others met last Thursday to clean up the camp and work out details for a larger scale solution.

Cliff Drive, which stretches along the northern border of Historic Northeast through Kessler Park, is closed to vehicular traffic. However, that did not solve the chronic vandalism and illegal dumping, and it has become a refuge for many hoping to avoid the public eye.

On Thursday, four park employees cleared garbage, ashes and the remains of a camp that had been vacated earlier that day after the campers were given nearly a week’s notice to move on.

It is illegal to camp on City and park property, but has been convenient over the past two years as the homeless population in and around downtown and Northeast has steadily grown. Nearby resources like Hope Faith Homeless Assistance Campus – who busses clients to shelters and other services – and other places that serve hot meals don’t provide overnight shelter.

Gate One of Cliff Drive is at the western edge of Pendleton Heights, accessed through Maple Park and by The Paseo north of Independence Avenue. During their walking tour, the parks officials and volunteers talked to people camping in the woods near Missouri Avenue and The Paseo, giving notice that they’d have to move on by Wednesday.

Parks staff recognized one of the men from camping across the highway at the decommissioned Belvidere Park, which was recently swept to make way for Paseo Gateway construction beginning later this month.

Anyone who is willing to help is invited to a cleanup on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon. The focus area will be Kessler Park and Cliff Drive around Gate 1. 

“This will be a massive litter cleanup and brush removal effort involving all KC Parks maintenance staff, heavy equipment, KC Parks Ambassadors, and community volunteers,” the invitation reads. “KC Parks will provide bags, gloves, and trash pickers, or volunteers can bring their own. Volunteers will focus on loose litter pickup (primarily along Paseo) while KC Parks staff uses heavy equipment for brush and litter removal near Cliff Drive/Gate 1. Please bring a reusable water bottle filled with water and wear sturdy shoes or boots.”

In February, park crews tackled the reservoir, but this week they’ll focus on beautifying and making safe the western end of the park and the surrounding area.

Residents can report illegal dumping by calling 311. For a Park Ranger, call 816-799-7521 or email kcparkssecurity@kcmo.org. In an emergency, call 911.