The Driving Force Behind the Karnes Playground

January 16, 2017

In our work, we often hear stories of how park and playground projects get done – ranging from how it gets funded to the installation and more. The Karnes Playground in Roanoke Park, Kansas City, MO, is the story of what one community did to make change happen in their neighborhood park.

The Karnes Playground Story

Roanoke Park, one of the older parks in the Kansas City area, needed a makeover. The park, home to many homeless, was not being used and the play equipment was old. No one wanted to use the park, safety was a big concern.

Rachel Porter, new to the community, was determined to effect change. She reached out asking people in the community how they could get a new park playground. Connecting with the Kansas City Parks & Recreation department, she found out about an application process, the Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC), where she could submit her recommendation.

PIAC solicits residents and based on their input then makes recommendations on how to spend both the citywide and neighborhood portions of the capital budget. Revamping Roanoke park would benefit hundreds of children in the four surrounding neighborhoods.

As luck would have it, she secured funding through PIAC.

At the same time, she found out that the park had its own volunteer conservancy with a 5-year master plan to restore the park. Restoring the playground was toward the bottom of the list; however, she agreed to chair the playground project, moving it higher up on the list.

Neighborhood Task Force is Born

Rachel was gung-ho and extremely committed to seeing the playground project come to fruition. She recruited another neighborhood woman, Lindsay Severns, to co-chair the task force and work began.

  • They talked with others in the neighborhood who had a vested interest in the park.
  • They held a 3-hour design brainstorming meeting. About 75 people from the neighborhood attended, providing ideas to help guide the direction of the playground’s design.
  • Architects from a firm located near the park, Hufft Projects, offered their assistance and provided space at their firm for meetings.
  • They visited many local playgrounds and toured others from around the world virtually. This work helped the task force identify the types of play equipment they liked. Architects from Hufft, familiar with the playground equipment, brought brands like Berliner Seilfabrik to the table.

According to Rachel, “it was like the perfect storm of people coming together to help transform the playground.” The success of this park can be attributed to a unique public-private partnership among the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, the Roanoke Park Conservancy and the task force headed by Rachel and Lindsay.

Much hard work followed and in April of 2016 the new Karnes Playground opened in Roanoke Park.

Pictures of Project Rendering, Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Work-in-progress
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