Water and a good, cheap, place to park vehicles. Those are the topics on my mind this week. They don’t seem to go together at first glance, but if we want to add touches of class and quality in Platte County’s future, we need to give them a look and some extra planning. My day job recently took me to Bartle Hall for the Kansas City Boat and Sportshow.
Four days in a row, I pulled into the Barney Allis parking garage and paid $8 for a chance to leave my car unattended. The suburbanite and semi-country boy in me has difficulty adjusting to paying for parking. I suppose big-city veterans with deep pockets consider such charges relatively inexpensive and a convenient arrangement.
But combine cost with the fact that parking garages are rather dingy, depressing places, and it makes me wonder if Platte County is going to handle this piece of infrastructure well as the countryside is transformed into the city.
I grant that the county is a long way from reaching the age and crowding of vehicles that exist in old Downtown KC, but at the same time, we’ve had a tremendous amount of growth and development in the past few decades.
Much more is coming soon. Now is the time to think about how pieces might fit together in the future.
At the same time, water is among the key future environmental issues for the whole nation. It already is the No. 1 issue in some states. You can look at drought in California for a recent example.
I recently heard an interesting report on National Public Radio about states and communities taking aggressive approaches to water conservation. Engineers and landscape architects are looking for ways to better utilize storm water — rainfall running off roofs, yards and fields.
Water is scarce enough in some places that extra planning and building costs are recouped.
This is not a new subject to our region. The Kansas City Water Department has looked at permeable pavement for some of the city’s parking lots. That lets water percolate down into groundwater supplies. My day job office site has bioswales where water running off of parking lots is captured in depressions near the pavement. Trees and native plants used for scenic landscaping in the bioswales get a drink.
Some water makes it way down into groundwater. The plants and soil cleanse water running off the pavement. If a major rain hits, water does overflow into storm sewers, but otherwise, water quality gets improved and the moisture gets used for greenery.
The City of Lenexa in Johnson County, Kan., is several years into implementing a comprehensive water plan that addresses better uses for storm water, including feeding lakes in parks.
But these newer developments generally run counter to the old way.
In the past, whatever moved rainfall in cities into the Missouri River and tributaries the fastest and cheapest way always took precedence. Raindrops fell on parking lots and roofs and then flowed directly into storm drains or street curbs leading to storm drains that dumped water directly into a major stream.
We’ve been wasting water.
Meanwhile, homeowners are paying good money for drinking water to sprinkle on lawns to keep the grass green. At the same time, most of us in the ’burbs when we shop park on vast patches of pavement, and in summer our vehicles bake in the sun. Studies have shown the baking produces all manner of chemicals released from car parts.
I know I sure detest climbing into a scalded, sticky car at the end of summer work day for the commute home.
There is a better way. Underground or multi-level parking garages with green roofs — oft utilized as mini-parks — are already being built in some places in America. Engineers and architects are developing cutting edge designs to utilize storm water better. City and county planners in government positions are aware of forward-thinking development.
The community that handles parking and storm water best in decades to come is going to be looked upon as among the most desirable places to live and shop.
Platte County can be one.
We cannot legislate or dictate this level of thoughtful development, but we can hope for good partnerships between developers, designers and those in government who work on planning and zoning issues. We are somewhat at the mercy of those who control purse strings in the private sector and whether they are willing to be progressive rather than simply seeking the quickest profit.
But attitudes and desires of the citizenry can play a role, too.
Some communities demand the best for the future. Platte County should be among them.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.