Missouri River, Nature Are Part Of Parkville's Lure

Jul 20, 2015

Cara Smith is particularly fond of Parkville's riverfront walk at English Landing Park in the spring and fall.
Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR

Cara Smith didn't move to Parkville, Missouri, for the Missouri River.

But that's why she stayed.

The 28-year-old nurse practitioner left Shawnee, Kansas,  so she could "keep the pipes warm" at her grandparents' empty home in Parkville.

She thought it would be a temporary move. But six years later, she's still there.

Like so many people in Parkville and the Northland, she's made the Missouri River a big part of her life.

“I walk my dog every day along the river,” she says. “It’s especially wonderful in the spring and fall.”

We met Smith at Parkville Coffeehouse early Friday morning.  

The coffee shop is Parkville’s “Cheers,” a neighborhood pub at the base of Main Street, serving caffeine rather than stout.  

It's a stone’s throw from English Landing Park, Parkville's finished and tree-lined riverfront. On this particular Friday, the street was lined with sport-utility vehicles with bike racks and elderly men in cargo shorts hanging out under the red coffee house awning.  

“The reason I like Parkville is the nature,” says 69-year-old Bob Fuchel, drinking coffee inside with two friends.

Fuchel, 25-year veteran with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the former director of the department's Discovery Center in Kansas City, is attracted to the river ecology.

“Parkville is more like the Ozarks – rocky and wooded,” Fuchel says. “I love the mature Oak Hickory forests and the hilly topography.”

Next to Fuchel is 79-year-old Lewis Jonas.  Across the table is Dean Jernigan, 74. The three men are known here as the “spit and whittlin’” group, a moniker that belies their decades of collective education and professional experience in environmental work.

They became friends through their volunteer work together at the Parkville Nature Sanctuary, 115 acres of scenic hiking trails that was once the Park College farm.

Jernigan has lived all over the Kansas City metro. A lifelong science educator, he says Platte Landing Park and adjacent English Landing Park on the Missouri River provide miles of nature walks and riverfront green space. He also loves the dense forests.

“I moved from Overland Park to Parkville 12 years ago. I moved onto 5 acres and a house in the woods," Jernigan says.

Last week, 79 year-old-Lewis Jonas moved to a retirement community outside of Parkville so his wife could live in a home on one level.  He says he'll continue his volunteer work at the Parkville Nature Sanctuary as well as his regular meeting with fellow conservationists in Parkville.

Bob Fuchel meets fellow environmentalists at the Parkville Coffeehouse almost every day.
Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR

 “We’re a diverse community, politically and religiously,” Jones says.  “But we pretty much all share a love of nature and living on the river."

This is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them.