On a gray and hectic day in October, dozens of Wyandotte County residents gathered at Parkwood Park off N. 9th Street and Quindaro Boulevard to share stories about their past and envision a new future.
The green park is the hub of the Parkwood Historic District, a neighborhood of Prairie Style and Craftsman bungalows. The neighborhood – the park and the houses – is on the Kansas City, Kansas Register of Historic Places, and is a beloved location in northeastern Kansas City, Kansas.
“It happens,” said Meta Townsend, 71, one of three community ambassadors on the core team planning the new Northeast Kansas City, Kansas, Heritage Trail. “We want everyone to know that this is happening and we want their feedback! “
Standing behind a table filled with colorful graphics and information, the bubbly retired government worker and community activist motioned for people to outline the goals of the proposed hiking and biking trail, green infrastructure, and development opportunities. economic. She said people in her community, mostly black, did not often have the opportunity to speak out on what they wanted.
About a hundred people came and went during the morning, jotting down their thoughts on a large notice board and telling oral stories to a videographer. They hovered over a large map of northeastern Kansas City, Kansas, delicately placing tiny Monopoly houses and blue dots.
“The blue dots indicate where people say they have memories,” said Adam Rosa, founder of Collabo, a Chicago-based town planning company that is a consultant on the project. “The green dots are where they want to see improvements in the park and green spaces. “
Andrea Smith said it was very important to her that the project celebrates the contributions of the black community, such as the once bustling shopping area around 5th Street.
“Delis, hair salons, grocery stores and drugstores,” recalls Smith, who described his age as “over 65”.
“I would love to see markers for places and people who have had a big impact on the neighborhood,” she said. “We’ve made a big contribution in Kansas City, Kansas. “
“This is one of the most historic areas in the county, but our history is being ignored. Even by us, ”Townsend said.
It was the first in a series of community meetings designed to bring together memories, details and dreams for an ambitious project anchored by a mile-long trail in the heart of the region.
The southern end of the trail will be Kaw Point Park, which is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers.
The northern end will be the Quindaro townsite, one of three National commemorative sites in the network of national parks. It was the site of a Civil War-era commercial port on the Missouri River, home to a unique community of settlers, abolitionists, Wyandot Indians, and freed slaves, who fled from across the river to Kansas until it became a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The Heritage Trail project evolved from general recommendations in a 2008 master plan for Kansas City, Kansas, which envisions a green city with neighborhoods that have healthy and fit residents, infrastructure that ensures clean air and water, and a community that embraces its diverse culture and history.
The project began when the Groundwork Northeast Revitalization Group, also known as GroundworkNRG, partnered with the United Government to apply for a grant from the Mid-America Regional Council. They received $ 108,000 from the Sustainable Places Grant, supplemented by $ 30,000 from the UG.
Rachel Jefferson, executive director of GroundworkNRG, said the partnership made sense. Her organization promotes innovative and inclusive projects, she said, offering new solutions to old problems. She commended local officials for their willingness to take an unconventional approach to urban design.
“Too often government plans sit on a shelf and goals are never met,” she said. “Our community deserves better. They deserve to see progress and have a say in implementation.
Helen Collins, 69, leaned over a long table, writing on a white notice board with a black Sharpie her list of concerns about Parkwood Park.
“Number one. The ruined pavement in the parking lot is a danger,” she said. “Number two. Sloping access to other parts of the park are handicap issues. Number three. The park needs barrels of waste at the entrances and exits. Number four. More activities for the community.
Some parents said they wanted to see the Parkwood Park swimming pool open more regularly – it is often closed due to a lack of lifeguards. Others spoke of the need for places where children can relax, such as skateboard parks. People wrote that they wanted something done about littering on the streets.
As colorful stickers and tiny houses proliferated on the billboard, Collabo’s Matt Rosa said there would be budget constraints and other limiting factors later. But this first step was important to give the community a voice in determining how resources will be allocated.
Monopoly houses and red hotels showed where people wanted more housing or business investment. The green sheet indicated the parking spaces or the cemeteries.
A piece of string wrapped around the middle of the map, representing the proposed trail.
“Everyone has a say in where they think the main trail should go,” Rosa said. “We’ll take a photo of everyone’s idea, overlay all the routes and see what some of our options are. It’s a very convenient way to do it.
Rosa said the project is built on four pillars: history, economic development, environment and mobility. Early designs include a loop in the heart of the neighborhood, a river path, and an outer loop using the right-of-way for the freed tracks.
But the plans are preliminary. The community will speak again at a meeting in the coming weeks.
The Meta Townsend community ambassador could barely contain her enthusiasm.
“People will walk hundreds of miles to see the bigger ball of string, or whatever,” she said. “Well, that’s gonna be our ball of string here in northeast Kansas City, Kansas.”