Kansas City group looking to restore park named in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City voters overwhelmingly approved the decision to revert Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard back to the Paseo on Tuesday.

Now, people are looking at ways to honor the civil rights icon with more than a street. One group is hoping to rehab a city park that's already sporting his name.

"This park sparked my particular interest after the Save the Paseo movement, and we were talking about different ways to honor Dr. King," Donald Rankins said. "I remembered we had a park right over here in this area, so I got a strong interest in cleaning this up and making it somewhere the locals can come and commemorate Dr. King."

The 42-acre park, located between Swope Parkway and Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard, has been named after King since 1978. Still, many people are not aware of its existence.

"I've heard that a few times online that people had no idea. I had no idea until earlier this year," Rankins said.

Now, Rankins has been rallying supporters by the hundreds through a Facebook Page called "Restoration of MLK Square Park" over the past three days.

And he isn't alone with the idea to restore the area.

"I've been thinking about it for a few years," said Duron Netsell, an urban designer with Midtown Design Development Construction. "Only in the past few weeks with the debate and vote coming up I decided to share the renderings. We all want to honor Dr. King in a proper way."

Netsell created renderings of a proposed park makeover and posted them online. The proposal including a King memorial, numerous ball fields, a playground, fitness area and restrooms.

Others are already pitching in their ideas for additional lighting and walkways.

"I come here all the time, and I've just always thought this was kind of a disgrace how it's been left," said Lauren Bell who lives near the park and is active in the restoration initiatives.

She said she's excited the movement is getting the recognition and support it deserves.

"I think this park needs a lot of work. It needs to have something that's honorable for the name it has been given," Bell said.

The group plans to organize several clean-up initiatives in the coming weeks.

Another group is voicing interest in rehabbing a vacant school on Indiana Avenue, also named in King's honor.

King Middle School closed in 2009.

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