… and then there is Waterway Park

Those of you that are not familiar with Waterway Park it is located here in KCK about 50 feet west of 11th and Grandview. The Park was originally a shallow lake that was part of a larger park design by Sidney Hare, of Hare & Hare, a popular and progressive Landscape Architectural firm responsible for many projects in this region. Sidney Hare’s opinion that nature was the mother of all true art and that painting, sculpture, and landscape art were ready-made inspirations for adorning home grounds, reflected his background and avant-garde ideas. The project was undertaken  over 100 years ago and included a sunken garden between Minnesota Ave and State Ave and included Big Eleven Lake. Nearly a mile of waterway with gardens, trees, benches and gathering places for residents and visitors alike.

In the 1930′s, with the help of a WPA project, the Parks Department filled in the sunken garden because of maintenance and drained the lake at Waterway. Rather then filling it in they constructed a baseball diamond some 20 feet lower then the roadway. I can remember playing softball there in the late 50′s and assumed it got it’s name from the 3 inches of water that covered the field whenever it rained. That aside the park remained a place of recreational enjoyment for many years but by the time the mid 90′s rolled around it had become a gathering place for a much different clientele, a rougher crowd and a not very family friendly place to go.

CHWC started building new homes in the area as part of a major neighborhood revitalization project and the park was an eyesore. A partnership was formed with the Unified Government and LISC to redesign the park, filling in the big hole, planting trees, putting in a playground area and a sidewalk that surrounded the park. Since that time the park has been a nice attraction for joggers, walkers and families.

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Inspiration from a tour of a urban park in Atlanta, last summer I returned with new ideas about what a park can and maybe should be. In discussions with park visitors they often asked why there weren’t more places to sit, why there wasn’t some sort of recreational area, a soccer field, baseball diamond? Why wasn’t there a drinking fountain or a restroom? Why wasn’t there any shade? or lighting? It was as if the park had been designed for day time use and joggers.

In the fall of last year we started working with Jeffrey Preuss, a Landscape Architect, that had volunteered his services to the visualization of the EPIC CLAY STUDIO on Strawberry Hill. We spent many hours sharing articles and ideas about park design and a few months ago Jeffrey came up with the idea of a park that is family and kid friendly, ecologically educational and recreational. A gathering place for the residents of our community, an outdoor classroom for our children and a place where all can run, walk, kick a ball, work up a sweat or just sit back and relax.

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We have renewed our partnership with the Unified Government, the Parks Department, the Tree Commission,  Livable Neighborhoods and Neighborhood leaders to start a three phrase redesign of  Waterway Park. The kickoff was last weeks Arbor Day event with the installation of 17 trees, wheel chair accessibility to the playground area and shelter house as well as landscaping put in by the CHWC staff and neighborhood volunteers. The changes in just one short week have been amazing and there are more to come. Stop by and visit the park, sign up to lend a hand or follow along on the “Waterway Park” Facebook page. Be part of a new kind of Urban Park Design. Call steve at 913 342 7580 to volunteer.

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