Planning could help expand park system in Platte County

Imagine a 1,000-acre park in Platte County stretching seven miles from Highway 152 to northeast of Ferrelview, one both north and south of the Interstate 435 loop east of KCI. A park connected by trails and bike lanes on roadways to other parks and trails throughout Platte County. 

Currently three groups of planners are putting their imaginative ideas onto planning maps for such as park. One group has offices in New York and Seattle, another in Brooklyn and one is from Borba, Portugal.  

Kansas City announced in October that those groups had been chosen out of 20 submissions in a design competition for a new Linear Park in the Twin Creeks area. Taxpayers footed the bill for $43.5 million in water and sewer infrastructure in the First Creek and Second Creek area. 

Major residential and commercial projects are planned to follow. Some are already under way in the 15,000-acre area. 

This is a Kansas City project, but it affects all of Platte County due to sheer size. 

Plus, the park planners working on this project are likely looking at maps long in place for proposed trails and parks that utilize streams and land near them as green space. If floods arrive, and they always do, damage and losses are far less in parkways than if homes and businesses had been built in low-lying areas.

Communities in Johnson County, Kan., have long been leaders in using this approach. And that’s one reason why the county’s business and housing have thrived. 

People want to live near green space. Not using the approach is what the pioneers and early business leaders of Kansas City did in the 1800s and early 1900s, and it’s why businesses flood in certain older parts of the city after heavy rains, such as north of Union Station.

Being able to connect trails and parks is one reason why Platte County’s parks and recreation program, and the sales tax that supports it, are important. 

The county needs to be able to keep helping communities connect their green spaces, including those in the north. Johnson County sets the pace, but Jackson County and Clay County both have sizable parks programs with history components. 

Much remains to be done.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what plans turn into construction projects in the Twin Creeks Linear Park. Among the ideas the planners chosen have proposed: interweaving trails for pedestrians and cyclists; a sequence of parks near the stream that utilizes forests, ponds and meadows; and utilizing an environmental education theme with landscaping such as butterfly habitat.

We must realize this is part of a long waltz between the city and developers, one that’s been going on for a few years. 

This plan likely would require developers to give the city land along the stream drainage to meet the city’s planning and zoning requirements for parks in developments. One clarification regarding “linear park,” it’s not a straight line, but rather like a tree’s curly tap root with bunches of side roots. 

Where small creeks feed Second Creek, the map shows another park side branch. That would translate someday to families going for bike rides pulling out of their driveway, cycling onto a side trail, and perhaps trekking up the winding main parkway. 

Another part of this waltz, park supporters and developers don’t always agree. 

Kansas City has a tradition more than a century old of high standards for boulevards and parkways, but much of the Northland didn’t come into the city until after World War II, including huge annexations of rural areas north of the Missouri River.

The city’s boundaries came north along with the airport. Although growth didn’t come to the farm fields until recent decades, and now growth is here big time.

The news in January, 2015, was that Northland members of the Kansas City Park Board were concerned about developer pressures to relax boulevard and parkway standards. Developers felt them too expensive. Developers come and go but parks last a long time for the public. 

Ward Parkway comes to mind. Let’s hope they’re not allowed to cut corners at the expense of graceful green spaces and thoroughfares for the next century’s public.

Demographers have said this development could bring as many as 75,000 new residents to the Northland in the next 20 or 30 years. That’s a staggering thought. The landscape within this project will be transformed, but it will cause even more changes beyond. 

Let’s hope our elected officials, planners and developers do it right.

Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at