Equal Play: Kansas City’s parks scores in the country’s top 10

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Loose Park gate in Kansas City, Missouri

A gated entrance to Loose Park in Kansas City, Missouri.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City’s Parks system is one of the best in the country when it comes to equality and acreage, according to a new analysis.

The issue became even more apparent last year when parks were some of the only places people could go because of the pandemic.

The Trust for Public Land keeps track of green space across the U.S. The group scores cities by looking at five different areas:

  • Access
  • Acreage
  • Investment
  • Amenities
  • Equality

The organization said it believes everyone should be able to leave home and walk to a park within 10 minutes.

According to an article published in Bloomberg, neighborhoods of color have access to 44% less park space.

While KC Parks said it realizes improvements can be made, the news is not as bleak for Kansas City neighborhoods. When it comes to the issue of equality, The Trust for Public Land gave Kansas City a score of 81 out of 100, which puts it in the top 10 cities in the country. The national median score is 54.25.

Overall, Kansas City is ranked No. 20 in the country. It loses points for access and amenities at its parks.

The Kansas City Parks Department is taking initiative to improve parks, social equality and life expectancy in certain areas of town through its parks.

The department recently created the Quality of Life Investment District. It will be in charge of managing the 38 public parks that are located in five of the city’s six zip codes. That includes building and park maintenance, landscaping, and other issues that arise.

A 2012 study by the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department found people who live in the five zip codes have a life expectancy that is 12-15 years shorter than people living in other areas of the city. The parks department also determined that parks in those same neighborhoods consistently scored lower when compared to parks in other areas of town.

The department said it acknowledged past practices and policies may have contributed to the equity gap.

“Creating a more equitable park system is the most important and significant work we can be doing at this moment,” Terry Rynard, KC Parks director, said. “All of our residents deserve parks they can be proud of no matter where they live.”

KC Parks is working with UMKC’s Center for Neighborhoods to identify areas where the parks can improve.

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