Seriously. I need to get out more.
Perhaps like you, I’m a decades-long metro-area resident who gets out enough to be familiar with outdoor spaces featured in local calendars.
Loose Park, check. Kansas City Zoo, check. Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park? Been there, and it’s very nice, as you probably know.
Smithville Lake up north. Check — if only one visit on my part, some years back. But we all know of it.
Jerry Smith Farm Park. Beg your pardon?
The latter is the oldest piece of outdoors of them all.
A serene expanse of land there on Kansas City’s south edge has never, in thousands of years, been broken by tillers or work crews. Jerry Smith Farm Park offers a vista of how northwest Missouri looked before the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery: grassy, sunny and flowery rather than woodsy.
Get out and meet bugs you’ll find nowhere in Jackson County but at the former Smith family farm.
So here was my task for our springtime “urban outdoors” section: Find airy spaces around the city that you might have driven by but never pulled into, nature spots worth visiting on a splendid afternoon.
Several people helped The Star come up with this variety pack of some of the unheralded best: Kansas City WildLands’ Linda Lehrbaum, Johnson County parks superintendent Bill Maasen, Kansas City parks director Mark McHenry and former superintendent Forest Decker, Wyandotte County Historical Museum director Patricia Schurkamp, Northland civic leader Anita Gorman, and the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Bill Graham and Larry Rizzo, among others.
We sidestepped the obvious. Powell Gardens southeast of town enjoys enough accolades, I think; visit if you’ve not already. (There is an admission fee, however, which none of the places in these pages charge.)
Beyond shedding a little light on pleasing or surprising outdoor places, I was drawn to the stories behind them:
▪ Why does Cave Spring near a busy Raytown intersection feature stand-alone chimneys?
▪ What’s with the hulking machine visible at the bottom of Wyandotte County Lake since the 1930s?
▪ How did an 18th-century village wind up at the edge of a Northland golf course?
In 36 years living around here, I had not visited any of those places until now. Knew about some of them, just didn’t bother to get out.
We’re certain you know of other hidden jewels in the urban outdoors. Post your contributions here.
Words and pictures
Rick Montgomery, 56, joined The Star in 1986 and has spent his career as a general-assignment writer.
He is co-author of “Kansas City: An American Story,” a book on local history. He is slightly acquainted with nature.
Shane Keyser, 46, joined the photography staff of The Star in 1996.
He has backpacked the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Flat Tops Wilderness Area in Colorado and a section of the Appalachian Trail. He has also rock-climbed in Squamish, British Columbia, and made several trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota.