Northland families want city to rebuild playground after fire burned it down almost a year ago

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some families in a Northland neighborhood say they are tired of waiting for a playground that was destroyed by fire last year to be rebuilt. The playground used to sit near northwest 75th and North Autumn at Park Forest Park.

Families say it is where their kids used to play every week. Now --it's been 10 months since it burned -- and they're still waiting on the city to take action.

“I actually saw it coming back late at night from my sisters, I was the one to call it in too,” said Alter Ekiek, who has lived near the park in the Northland for more than a decade.

The small park has a little trail and what used to be a great playground intended for small children.

“The flame was just getting bigger and bigger,” recalled Ekiek about that night.

According to police -- on November 7th it burned down. They determined it was arson, but never found out who caused the fire.

“Teenagers have been hanging out there, they would go there to smoke,” Ekiek added.

While Ekiek says he didn`t see anybody that night, he thinks maybe someone left a cigarette that wasn`t totally put out.

“I`ve seen cops approach a couple of teenagers over there more than once,” he said

The city came out and tore the playground down, leaving a blank space where children used to play, and no construction has been done since.

Ekiek has four kids ages 5-16, and his nieces and nephews used to play on the playground too.

“Almost every week, In the summer time, it would be maybe three times a week,” added Ekiek, “I tried to tell them, and the two youngest ones were pretty sad about it.”

Now -- almost a year later -- he along with many other families in the neighborhood want to know why it's taking so long to rebuild, as they just want a place where our kids can play.

“The closest one to us right now is actually on Congress across from Park Hill middle school and Park Hill high school,” said Ekiek, “It was really convenient when it was still up and running, but now it`s really inconvenient, because we have to drive all the way there, when it was still there, we would just walk down there.”

A spokesperson for Parks and Recreation says they have a playground but they need to find money for it, and then sign a contract to have it installed.

She says the city has 220 parks, 103 playgrounds and 58 shelters with limited funding to maintain all of them, and unfortunately don’t have funding available to immediately replace damaged features.

The city has a $150,000 per incident deductible for their insurance coverage, and they typically notify the neighbors when they have a specific date for the replacement, which they don’t have at this time.

“We thought they would have started rebuilding maybe four months after that, but until now, still nothing,” Ekiek says, “ My kids were actually hoping that it would be back before the weather gets really cold again… they miss playing, especially my son, the 5-year-old.”

One parent says they don't have any sidewalks, and he's seen kids actually playing in the street and there are recent ATV tracks running through park.

He’s hoping by bringing more attention to the situation the city will move a little faster.