In an effort to address crime in public parks, the Kansas City Council is proposing implementing park hours and developing a plan to make them safer.
Recent murders near several Kansas City trails and parks have brought park safety to the forefront of conversations within the council and in neighborhood groups across the city.
Under the proposed ordinance, all city parks and trails will be open between 5 a.m. and midnight. Being in a park outside of those hours would be illegal. A previous version of the ordinance identified specific parks, but a council committee on Wednesday expanded the measure to include all public parks and trails.
The committee also approved a resolution directing the city manager to work with the board of parks and recreation to develop a more comprehensive safety plan that could include better park lighting, programming and security.
Councilman Quinton Lucas, who represents the 3rd district, says implementing park hours alone will help make parks safer.
"I think this adds an important tool for our police officers who are going by parks, who hear often about suspicious activity but may not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to actually speak to someone," Lucas says. "Now, if you run into someone at 2 a.m. at a park in some part of the city we have a reason to engage, we have a reason to discuss with them, and we have a reason to investigate what's going on."
Representatives from various neighborhood organizations testified in support of the ordinance, but many urged the council to take these conversations a step further.
Pat Clark is the president of the Oak Park neighborhood association, which represents residents who live between Linwood and Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevards, and Prospect and Cleveland Avenues.
He said parks are especially important for kids in the urban core, because there aren't many other places to hang out in the summer.
Mayor Pro-Tem Scott Wagner echoed the concerns of the public. He says closing parks to the public at night is a good first step.
"The police involvement is only one aspect of safety in the park. But there are other aspects of safety that include lighting, that include programming, that include crime prevention through environmental design," Wagner said.
As chair of the finance committee, Wagner said he would advocate for funding park safety measures. He says this conversation has been happening for 4 years, and he hopes it's finally time for real action.
The full council will consider the measures at Thursday's legislative meeting.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster at KCUR 89.3. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig.