Waterworks Park in the Briarcliff community probably will get a makeover this year that many hope will attract more families, walkers and joggers to its confines.
The park, a hilly space probably best known for its disc golf course that draws national competitions each June, is considered bare by some residents. But last year the Kansas City Public Improvement Advisement Committee (PIAC) approved a $225,000 grant for Waterworks Park.
The committee considers applications from citizens each year for public improvement projects funded through a capital improvements sales tax.
Richard Allen, a park planner with the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, met with residents Thursday night to discuss plans to use the funds to construct a trail and picnic shelter in Waterworks Park. He said the park needs about $150,000 more from this year’s PIAC funds to cover the cost of the two additions, which he expects to receive.
The park is at Northeast 32nd Street and North Oak Trafficway.
Steve Olson, who lives in the community, recalled spending many summer days at the park during his youth. But these days he and his wife, Carol Olson, prefer nearby Macken Park outside the limits of Kansas City.
“We don’t use it much now. There’s nothing there other than the (disc) golf course, and I don’t play that,” Steve Olson said.
Carol Olson said the lack of people in the park, named for a water treatment plant connected to it, is one of the main reasons she rarely uses it.
“I had my granddaughter up there once and it was sort of scary,” she said. “There wasn’t anybody else around except one car parked toward the entrance, and I felt a little uncomfortable.”
Allen said the parks department made efforts to gather input from residents to determine what improvements were most desired.
“We held several meetings, and listening to people that showed up at those meetings; we revised the master plan we have for the park,” Allen said.
Allen said construction will begin on the proposed mile-long trail and picnic shelter this summer,should the park receive the expected PIAC funds, which become available May 1.
Allen said the project could be completed by the end of this year. The trail would be about seven feet wide to accommodate people walking in small groups without disturbing the allure of the disc golf course, according to Allen.
“I have met with the disc golf folks, and we made some revisions based on how the trail would interface with the disc golf,” Allen said.
Among those Allen met with was Jack Lowe, the parks development director for the Kansas City Flying Disc Club. Because the park is the site of multiple national competitions in June and has even hosted international competitions, its preservation throughout the construction process is important to many people in and out of the area.
“The Parks and Rec have been extremely engaged throughout the process. Richard met with me independently. … The fact that they came to us willing to find a solution that will minimize disruption of the course — it speaks volumes to the working relationship that we’ve had.” Lowe said. “We understand that it’s going to take place and ultimately it’s for the benefit of everyone in the area.
“We hope it will not only raise awareness but help us maintain (the course) as one of the premier places to play in the country.”
With the proposed improvements, Allen and those attending last week’s meeting expressed optimism that many people will see the added benefits and begin going to the park more often.
“You get people walking in the park. You get eyes in the park. People will take ownership,” Allen said.
Chuck Cameron lives in the Evan’s Hills subdivision north of the park and often picks up up trash. He was pleased with the proposed improvements.
“We’ve been trying to get it fixed up over the years,” Cameron said, “and this has been a really goal-driven project.”
If the additions are as successful as Allen anticipates, the park may see a regrowth similar to its inception eight decades ago.
“The employees that worked at Waterworks (the water treatment plant) developed this green space back in the ’30s,” Allen said. “They developed the park in their free time … with picnic tables, the limestone retaining walls, roadways, and a picnic shelter.”
Tim Johnston, another Briarcliff resident, applied for the PIAC funding received last year. Through his organization, Briarcliff Trails of our Community, Johnston has also worked to put trails in at Briarcliff Greenway, a space connected to Briarcliff Elementary School.
He envisions working through his organization to create a trail that would link Waterworks Park and the school, which are separated by about a mile.
“We started this 10 years ago, trying to get funding, and every year we got turned down,” Johnston said. “So we went to the school side. We started by putting trails in on Briarcliff Greenway. … The goal was to connect everything from park to school, so part of that is to get the Waterworks Park brought up to speed.”
Beyond the trail and picnic shelter, Allen said, many more amenities are being considered for the park. He listed adding more picnic tables, a new playground, a sand volleyball court, restrooms, better lighting along the road and in the parking lot, and a more open view of downtown and the skyline beyond it from the dedicated lookout point.
These additions are part of the master plan for the park.
With the necessary funds, the addition of the trail and picnic shelter will likely attract more residents like Olson, who said he’d even forego Macken Park for Waterworks once the trail is laid.
“I’ll go over and go for a walk,” he said.
The Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department has been considering upgrades to other parks in the Northland. Among them:
Hidden Valley Park: Completed a trail, disc golf course, picnic shelter and playground.
Anne Garney Park: Completed trail and trail-head parking. Proposed playground.
Hodge Park: Proposed rugby field project expected to begin this summer.
Englewood Park: Proposed trail.