KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Dave Stark admits public parks on the east side of Kansas City, Missouri, haven’t always looked the same as parks on the west side.
The 35-year employee with the city’s parks department said for years all 221 city parks were split between three maintenance districts. The central district had too many parks to keep up with.
“It got to the point they couldn’t handle all those parks. The maintenance needs were just too great,” Stark said.
In part due to those maintenance needs and partly in conjunction with a larger Life X Initiative, KCMO Parks and Recreation created a new district in 2021 called the Quality of Life Improvement District, or QLID for short.
It includes 38 of the city’s parks located in six zip codes on the east side (64126, 64127, 64128, 64129, 64130 and 64132).
In 2018, the city identified those zip codes as the ones with the highest rate of poverty and lowest life expectancy — averaging 14.9 years shorter than the rest of the city.
“Parks have a lot to do with livelihood and keeping you out busy with activities to get your body going,” Stark said.
He’s now the maintenance director for QLID. Over the past 18 months, Stark and his team have cleaned up the 38 parks and begun adding new features.
“It’s going to look just like the west side. They’ll look sharp,” Stark promised.
Ashland Square Park is getting a mini-pitch soccer court thanks to a partnership with KC Current, the city’s women’s soccer team.
Next year, it’ll get a grass soccer field for youth, a new playground and the dilapidated pool will transform into a spray ground.
Prospect Plaza Park is also in line to get a youth soccer field next year. McCoy Park has a new playground, new sidewalks and an outdoor library space.
Stark said a lot of the preliminary work focused on cleaning the parks: removing trash from illegal dump sites, painting over graffiti.
Crews also trimmed trees and bushes, improving the lines of sight at parks so residents feel safe.
“That energizes me to improve these parks because I see how well the citizens like them,” Stark said.
His work doesn’t go unnoticed. Terrence Haynes, of Buck’s Bar-B-Que, walks his dogs Zeus and Gator at Noble Park every day.
He knows how a high-quality park impacts a person’s health.
“I like to walk, so I get my exercise every day and my dogs love they walk too. Two for one,” Haynes said.
For a list of parks within the Quality of Life Improvement District, click here.
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