They never met. I knew one and may have met the other once. One made a big difference for the better in Platte County. The other lived south of the river.
Both are on my mind this week because they both loved nature.
Dorothy Day, 89, died March 20 at the Riverside Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Platte County would not have the Green Hills of Platte Wildlife Preserve without Day’s untiring efforts.
One person can make a difference.
Day lived in a log cabin built on a steep and wooded hillside at 4730 Green Hills Rd. The cabin overlooks a valley not far from Highway 9 in between Parkville and Riverside. She enjoyed some modern conveniences added to the cabin over the years, although they were Spartan by today’s housing standards.
The small cabin has been dated to the mid-1800s. However old the cabin is, it is one of the few surviving structures from pioneer days in the county. The woods to the front and sides of the house are timeless.
Across the valley from the cabin is another wooded hillside. A one-time road that now serves as a trail leads up to an old quarry site. The site is basically in the heart of the Kansas City metro, but natural and peaceful.
I first encountered Day in the early 1990s. She sent me letters asking for support for preservation of property in her neighborhood as a park.
I support green space preservation, but her goal seemed difficult to achieve. Platte County did not have a viable park system at the time.
But Day was patient, and she persisted. She kept contacting people and seeking help. Day believed the cabin and the timbered hillside on the other side of the valley should be preserved for others to enjoy.
I went to visit once and tour the cabin.
After I saw it, I decided she was right, a place combining history and beauty in a rapidly developing Northland did need to be saved. Platte County leaders eventually created a tax-supported parks and recreation proposal.
The public was involved in the planning. Voters supported a tax for parks at the polls. Day’s beloved cabin and woods became a county park. The natural area across from the cabin has been improved with native-plant landscaping in the old quarry area. It’s a pretty and wildlife-friendly place.
Feel free to visit. Her family suggested memorial contributions in her memory for the park.
Day was a freelance artist, naturalist and citizen who battled for what she felt was worthy. Green Hills is living art from her life.
Asaan Williams likely never visited Green Hills, but he would have enjoyed it. Williams, 18, of Kansas City, was shot to death on March 13. Police do not know why he was killed at an urban park in an east Kansas City neighborhood. Witnesses have not come forward. His family and friends held a vigil for him last week asking for help to solve the crime.
My information comes from The Kansas City Star. Friends described him as a gentle soul nicknamed Frog, a trusted confidant, a youth with good manners.
What leaped out at me was an aunt’s description.
Williams was highly curious from a young age, he read the encyclopedia for fun. He loved watching the National Geographic channel on television. He would tell family members all about all the various species of animals. He was very close and an inspiration to his father.
This struck me because the descriptions matched a young African American teenager and his father that I met a few years ago. They stopped by a booth where I was working at the Kansas City Boat and Sport Show. The father was so proud of his son, and that he knew all about different animals and fishes. He studied them and was interested in a career tied to nature.
Now I don’t know for certainty that Williams was this young man, but the description and age fits. Regardless, there are a lot of young people like Williams who are thirsty to learn about nature.
Day built a small barn near her house for education programs for young people. Platte County park managers and citizen volunteers are developing plans for the cabin and programs. Her dream is coming true.
Let us never be insensitive to tragedy from senseless violence that takes people like Williams from us. And may we always be open to ideas from people that add beauty, peace and purpose, qualities that make neighborhoods safe and life sacred.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.