Say hello to a better Cliff Drive

Kansas City officials will reopen Cliff Drive on Saturday morning near the west entrance.
Kansas City officials will reopen Cliff Drive on Saturday morning near the west entrance. lhorsley@kcstar.com

Cliff Drive is a hidden gem in Kansas City’s Old Northeast. The state scenic byway winds through George E. Kessler Park and is beloved by many residents, bicyclists, walkers and others who also enjoy its limestone bluffs and views.

Cliff Drive also has been an illegal dumping ground for years, bedeviled by people’s laziness and lack of respect for public property.

A new chapter is ready to begin in Cliff Drive’s history, offering the best shot in years at renewing and in some ways reclaiming the roadway as an important community amenity.

After many months of reconstruction, Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department officials and others will reopen the drive with a ribbon cutting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the west gate at the Paseo and Lexington Avenue. But some important restrictions and improvements will be in place.

▪ Cars will be allowed to only travel eastbound on the drive from the west entrance. Cars no longer may enter from the east entrance off of Gladstone Boulevard.

▪ The westbound lane will be open to bicyclists and pedestrians, not cars. A bollard system will separate the two lanes. Not allowing vehicle traffic in the westbound lane should make it more difficult for dumping to occur over the cliff that borders that lane.

▪ The entire drive will be closed to cars at dusk every weekday and all day on weekends. That’s another attempt to reduce nighttime dumping as well as to give people the full weekend to enjoy the roadway with no car traffic.

The new Cliff Drive is a product of plans put in motion after many meetings among city officials and longtime supporters of improving the byway. The parks agency in the last year has repaired some of the stone walls and stairs that help attract people, especially hikers and climbers, to Cliff Drive.

The city needs to see how the traffic restrictions work, especially in reducing blight caused by illegal dumping. Nearby neighbors also will continue monitoring the progress to protect a civic asset.