Kansas City neighborhood hoping to bridge gap to reach new playground at MLK park

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – One historic neighborhood has an amazing new playground.

However, neighbors complain its tough to reach since there’s a creek in the way and circumventing it demands that people dodge traffic on two or three busy streets.

It’s been close to a month since Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his 15 and the Mahomies Foundation cut the ribbon on the new Martin Luther King Jr. Park, which sits near Cleaver Boulevard and MLK Boulevard. The park offers children a state-of-the art playground.

But now, community members are voicing concerns about safety and accessibility. Hundreds of kids live in the apartment buildings to the north of the park just across Cleaver Blvd. There’s no way for families to cross Brush Creek to reach the park since there’s no bridge or walkway. A ribbon-cutting for the bridge would be likely next year.

Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver II (D-Missouri) said he plans to add a small pedestrian bridge to span that gap. Without a walkway across the water, park-goers have to walk about a mil around the creek while dodging traffic on a series of crowded motorways.

“It’s just not safe,” Cleaver told FOX4 News on Monday. “The last thing we need is for kids trying to cross the street to go to that magnificent playground that Mr. Mahomes and his family built and get hit by a car.”

Cleaver said he’s allocated nearly $3 million from next year’s federal appropriations budget to build the bridge. That budget has already been approved by the U.S. Senate, and is on its way to the House.

“This is something that I think will not only be beautiful and add to the area, but it will add to safety as a part of construction,” Cleaver said.

“I couldn’t even imagine a child walking around, let alone an adult. It’s already scary enough for adults that are standing on the corner with traffic coming. I couldn’t imagine kids going that way,” Denita Watkins, who has family members in the neighborhood along Brush Creek, said.

“Kids could then walk across the bridge,” Rochelle Owens-Jackson, a neighborhood parent, said. “There’s an apartment complex right there where the kids won’t have access to the park if there was no bridge, so there would be no access for the very people it’s supposed to serve.”

Longtimers who’ve lived along Swope Parkway will recall there used to be a foot bridge near that location. Cleaver said the bridge washed out in a flood years ago. The congressman said he’s not sure why it was never replaced.

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