Children are playing on new equipment in Davidson Park, but members of the Northland’s Highland Gardens Neighborhood Association don’t want the improvements to stop there.
The 16-acre park, at Northeast 53rd Street and North Woodland Avenue, now has two new sets of playground equipment, mulch, concrete walkways and benches in a roughly one-acre section, said Kim Gasperi, the neighborhood association’s president.
The park’s playground equipment had fallen into disrepair several years ago, and the city removed unsafe parts of it, said Forest Decker, superintendent of parks for the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department. Workers removed the remaining equipment just before work on the first phase began in early June, he said.
The new playground equipment was opened for use in late July, Gasperi said, but the neighborhood association held a grand opening Saturday for the first round of improvements.
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The redeveloped park is “vital to the community because we’re a 950-home area that had no park to speak of,” she said.
“We are already experiencing neighborhood interaction that wasn’t there before,” Gasperi said. “The area has no sidewalks, and the park makes it easier for kids and parents to get out and get to know each other and play.”
Parks and Recreation received roughly $28,000 in donated equipment from a company called GameTime, based in Fort Payne, Ala., the city said. The department paid for the equipment’s installation.
Kansas City’s Public Improvements Advisory Committee provided $45,000 for the park’s first redevelopment phase. The neighborhood association also seeks PIAC money for a community garden, a covered community pavilion and repairs to a basketball court.
Gasperi said she won’t know until March whether the project will receive additional PIAC funding, or how much it might receive.
In a written plan it submitted to the PIAC, the neighborhood association said that the use of all-terrain vehicles had damaged Davidson Park, “destroying the space and the quality of life for those who live closest to this area.”
Crime in the area also had risen, including vandalism of cars parked on streets.
“This cleared area is in the heart of our neighborhood and would be ideal for uniting our residents and achieving a shared space for all ages and interests,” according to the plan.
The plan also detailed benefits of a community garden, including that it preserves green space; fosters neighborhood and community development; conserves resources; reduces the city’s maintenance costs; produces nutritious food; stimulates social interaction; slows runoff and decreases heat from surrounding pavement; promotes intergenerational and cross-cultural engagement; and improves quality of life.
Citing CityScope data from the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Center for Economic Information, the plan said that Highland Gardens’ single-family housing is between 50 and 60 years old; occupied housing is decreasing; the neighborhood’s average resident’s age is 40; the numbers of residents 35 and younger and 50 and older are increasing; the ratio of income to poverty level is increasing; and the median annual income is $43,000.
Gasperi said the neighborhood association had relied heavily on guidance from Northland Neighborhoods Inc., a nonprofit community development corporation founded in 1996 that helps neighborhoods, community leaders and businesses find community resources.