Abby Hoover
Managing Editor

Hoxie Collective, the community planning practice tasked with creating a new Kessler Park Master Plan, hosted an open house at the Kansas City Museum on Sept. 24 to discuss concepts for improvements in the park.

The Kessler Park Improvement Plan Process began in the spring of 2022. The design team has worked with the Parks Department, residents, and stakeholders over the past few months to understand the challenges and opportunities present in Kessler Park. Currently, the team is working hard to refine design concepts based on community feedback.

At the event, community members reviewed draft designs for the park and provided feedback on what they liked most, ranking them by number.

A survey, which closed on September 9, collected opinions and preferences from a diverse set of respondents, reflecting the neighborhood’s cultural and economic diversity.

“We’ve gone to the parks to talk with folks where they are playing games over at Maple Park and Concourse, we’ve gone to St. Anthony’s Parish and had meetings in their basement with their parishioners, both Spanish speaking and English speaking,” Hoxie said. “We’ve gone to Riverview Gardens to talk with residents there, and then outdoors in that park right around the corner. Of course, we reached out and through the help of Jerusalem Farm, really helping us think through some of these strategies and make some connections, and brought in interpreters from JVS, we’ve gotten to talk with a lot of folks.”

Volunteers with Northeast’s Urban Trail Co., who maintain unpaved trails throughout Kessler Park, were in attendance. They estimate the trails they care for are at about a seven on a scale of one to 10.

“I think the trails are in very good condition,” volunteer Scott Lillis said. “There are areas of the park with homeless and trash and glass, things like that, which I think affect the perception of it. Generally, when you’re on the trail, most of the time you don’t encounter that stuff, you see more of it by the road, by the reservoir over there.”

The group has worked hard to make the trails sustainable and safe, remediating washed out hillsides, cleaning up trash, and keeping a positive presence in the woods. They hope to see better water management throughout the park, which would help maintain the trails, and that this is a catalyst to real change in the parks.

This was the final opportunity for formal public engagement at this phase. Next, the project team and the advisory committee – made up of neighbors, local stakeholders and representatives of community groups – will work together to start fleshing out the phasing plan, the cost estimation, and the conservation and operation and maintenance of land.

“So taking all of the community feedback for programs and activities and amenities in the park, and thinking about really what logically can come first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, over the next few years,” Hoxie said in terms of what comes next. “[We’re] really taking that feedback on some of the big ideas that we’ve heard about security and safety and cleanliness and protection and conservation practices for the park, that’s kind of the foundation of this plan, and getting those started rolling as quickly as possible with federal, state and local funding, and then building upon that.”

Hoxie Collective is beginning a strategic and technical endeavor over the next three or four months, looking at what can be paid for by what funding sources, and phasing out projects.

This will all result in the master plan for at least the next 10 years, but Hoxie said master plans are meant to be flexible and adaptable.

“Depending on what happens in the first two or three years, we’ll have to make updates and adaptations, that’ll, of course, be in the parks department,” Hoxie said.

The Park Department’s priority with this process is to make deep connections with the community, and keep them involved in the planning and implementation as the master plan is executed.

Hoxie said feedback is always welcome through the project’s website,