Ward family gift goes to KC parks

Another generous gift from the Ward Family Foundation will allow for upgrades in Loose Park and continued maintenance in other Kansas City parks.

“Their extreme generosity and sense of commitment and pride in Kansas City parks is really overwhelming,” deputy parks director Steve Lampone said Monday.

While the donation amount was not disclosed, Lampone said it will allow for a new overlay of the rubberized asphalt path that circles Loose Park and reconstruction of the stone masonry walls and steps in Loose Park.

In addition, the foundation is continuing its support for the annual maintenance of all the grass, trees, flowers and shrubs that fill the length of Ward Parkway and for the annual maintenance of Loose Park, Gillham Park and Theis Park.

The foundation created by the family that owns Russell Stover Candies has been funding maintenance of selected parks for seven or eight years and hopes to do so many years into the future, said Scott Ward, co-president of Russell Stover Candies along with his brother Tom.

“Our parks and our parklands and boulevards are fantastic, and we’re committed to keeping them that way,” Scott Ward said.

The donations are made in accordance with the wishes of Scott Ward’s late father, Lou Ward, who created the foundation.

Lampone said the foundation’s annual contributions have truly enhanced Ward Parkway, which the American Planning Association this fall named to its national list of 10 great streets for 2012. The group picked Ward Parkway in part for its picturesque scenery and striking ornamentation.

Kansas City’s parks department got welcome budget relief this year after voters in August approved a half-cent sales tax increase, which is expected to generate about $3 million more annually for parks and community centers.

But while that additional public money is welcome news, Ward said his family is not reducing its philanthropic support for the parks.

“We made the commitment long before things got so rosy-looking, and sales taxes can come and go,” Ward said. “We have a long-term commitment.”