Editorial: Kansas City’s new parks curfew not a cure-all for crime

It’s understandable, but a shame, that Kansas City is closing its 221 parks overnight.
It’s understandable, but a shame, that Kansas City is closing its 221 parks overnight. Special to the Star

No one should need to worry about danger lurking nearby while enjoying Kansas City’s parks and trails.

Yet many area residents have been on edge in the great outdoors lately, for good reason. Four men who were out walking their dogs or simply enjoying nature have been killed in recent months. The similarities are enough to spur stepped-up surveillance and spark fears among runners, cyclists and those who enjoy a Sunday stroll.

So the City Council’s decision last week to close all of Kansas City’s parks and trails from midnight to 5 a.m. is understandable. Every city park will be off-limits overnight, 221 in all.

The city attempted to put a softer spin on the news, emphasizing the hours parks would be open, not closed, in the actual language of the new ordinance. Still, it’s a regrettable turn.

The change to a municipal ordinance wasn’t exactly a knee-jerk decision. But city officials gave little consideration to public parks’ long history in this community.

Back in the day, when air conditioning was far less prevalent, people took to sleeping in the parks for a break from the heat of the summer months. The cool breezes and the safe, open environment were welcoming to all.

Today, people seek out the city’s parks for different reasons. Homeless people, teens out of couch-surfing options, even the occasional adventurist, can be found camping with their few belongings in area parks and along many trails.

An arrest or arrests in the homicide investigations would help ease Kansas Citians’ trepidation. In the meantime, city officials should follow through on their pledge to develop a more comprehensive public safety plan for parks and trails.

The goal should be to mitigate dangers while preserving Kansas City’s long history of keeping our beautiful open spaces as accessible as possible.