Thursday, August 9, 2018

Grandview Aldermen to consider turning Municipal Court over to County


by Mary Wilson, mwilson@jcadvocate.com

Municipal courts in the State of Missouri must now follow rules which have been in place for quite some time, but previously were not enforced, according to Grandview Municipal Court Judge Ronald E. Johnson. With the passage of Senate Bills 5 and 572, the state has begun to take a closer look at court procedures and ordinances; and therefore, it has been determined that the Grandview Municipal Court is doing some things incorrectly.

“The State of Missouri and Missouri’s Supreme Court really hadn’t paid a lot of attention to municipal courts,” said Johnson. “County and state courts have been using these mandates forever. Since the municipal court is part of the same superior system, we are to adhere to the same principles.”

One such principle is that the municipal court be separate from city government. In many situations, according to Johnson, the courts were essentially being treated as another department of the city rather than an independent entity. The offices for the Grandview Municipal Court shares space with the city’s finance department, which Johnson said is not in compliance with the Missouri Supreme Court.

“The court has to remain neutral,” said Johnson. “It’s not proper and it doesn’t set a good appearance. We started making the city aware that we needed to change. What I get from them (the city) is that, because of the cost, because of being told what to do, and because of the space that we recommend using, they’d rather just hand us over to someone else rather than be in compliance with the law.”

Johnson and Court Administrator Becky Diederich proposed moving the municipal court offices into what is now the Business Center inside City Hall. It is a two-room area, away from the finance department and would comply with Missouri Supreme Court’s operating standards.

Because Grandview Municipal Court is not in compliance with operating standards, Judge John Torrence, with the Circuit Court of Jackson County, in a letter dated July 11, 2018, will consider all available sanctions to be imposed against the City of Grandview. Torrence requested a response from the City of Grandview by August 3. On that date, City Attorney Joseph Gall responded to Torrence, stating that he has been directed to prepare an ordinance for the Board of Aldermen to consider at its regular meeting on Tuesday, August 14.

“The ordinance will resemble the ordinance passed by the Lake Tapawingo Board of Aldermen on September 7, 2017, an ordinance electing to have municipal ordinance violation cases heard and determined by an Associate Circuit Judge of the Circuit Court of the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit,” Gall’s letter stated. “On Wednesday, August 15, I will advise you of the Board’s decision with respect to the ordinance.”

“Ultimately, if we are not in compliance, the State can shut the court down,” said Johnson. “They’ll be voting on whether to dissolve our court and move our cases to the Associate Circuit Court Judge. As far as I know, Lake Tapawingo is the only other community to have done this. Nobody our size is even considering not having three branches of government but us.”

Grandview’s Municipal Court collects fines and fees associated with traffic and city ordinance violations, and has accounted for roughly $1 million annually in net revenue to the City of Grandview the past two years, with previous years seeing even higher returns. Johnson said that revenues have been down due to the Grandview Police Department’s ticketing numbers decreasing.

“That’s all we do,” said Diederich. “We don’t go out and issue tickets; we don’t collect failure to appear fees because that’s not allowed. We don’t do any of that. Collections of fines and fees are down across the board. There’s a lot of turnover in police departments and it is a statewide issue, not just here. I think we are very proud of the changes we have made to be in compliance.”

Johnson added that they pride themselves on being a citizen-friendly court.

“We’ve got 81 years in Grandview, and now we’ve got someone coming in saying we don’t really need this court and it would be better not having it in our community,” said Johnson. “Instead of building tomorrow’s community here, we’re going backwards. It doesn’t benefit our community.”

If the Grandview Board of Aldermen votes to turn the municipal court over to the circuit court, Johnson said that the city will still have to have a prosecutor and likely a court clerk who will then have to electronically transfer all tickets and violations to the court system. The Associate Circuit would hear the Grandview cases along with all of the other caseload already there.

“That judge would use whatever he believes to be appropriate fines, and the circuit system will only allow 30 days to pay those fines,” said Johnson. “I believe there is a $25 cost to go on a payment plan, which we don’t have here. After 30 days, if you have not paid, it will then be turned over to whatever collection agency they choose. The City of Grandview would not see any part of that money until it is collected, after the circuit court assesses its own costs.”

It is unclear what the proceedings would look like because this is such a new concept for the associate circuit court, according to Johnson. He also feels that the City of Grandview will lose more in revenues than it would take to simply move the court offices as Johnson and Diederich recommended.

While the state ordinance says that a municipality can elect to have a municipal court which the municipality must pay for and provide staff to run, as far as Johnson knows, there is no precedence on who has the authority to shut a municipal court down.

“It’s brand new; no one else is doing this and there’s simply no research done on how this will look,” said Johnson. “Some other judges in the area have offered their help on this because they, too, think this is ridiculous.”

However, the City of Grandview says that these are unfunded mandates and other municipalities across the state have gone the route of transferring their courts or are in the process of doing so. According to Grandview City Administrator Cemal Gungor, there are 235 cities in Missouri whose cases are heard by circuit courts which include those who have historically done so.

“There are a number of other city’s because of what Senate Bill 5 has done, it has made a lot of cities reevaluate where they were, where they are and some of the other opportunities that we don’t know about that could be forthcoming impacting all types of city budgets,” said Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones.

Since the state passed Senate Bill 5, Gall said that Missouri has seen a number of cities transfer their courts to the associate circuit level. While Lake Tapawingo is the only city in Jackson County to do this, there are several in other counties in Missouri who have, including Platte City, Chillicothe and Washington.

The senate bills call for complete separation of municipal court activities, offices and records from city government. Senate Bill 5, specifically, is not settled, and numerous versions are still being circulated around Jefferson City. The bills are also up to the interpretation of whomever has the authority to implement the mandates.

“These unfunded mandates have specific requirements that are costing us money, and when you look at a small budget like ours, it makes us concerned,” said Gungor. “The other concern is that with complete separation, there is no administrative interaction with the court staff.”

While technically court staff are city employees, as they are on city payroll, receive city benefits, and so forth, Gungor said that when issues arise, specifically in the area of human resources, they are on their own. The Missouri Supreme Court has also mandated court automation, said Gall, which requires a new court software system.

“It remains to be seen what costs that might mean for the city,” said Gall. “We’ve been coexisting with the municipal court since 1978 and even before that, and there weren’t any problems or perceived problems until the new mandates came down. The playing field has changed.”

“We don’t know what other unfunded mandates may come out after this. We know what we know today, but, a scary thing for me, is what we don’t know,” said Jones. “What we don’t know is what we need to figure out for tomorrow.”

According to Gungor, 70 percent of the violations heard in Grandview Municipal Court are not residents of Grandview. If the aldermen determine to keep the court in Grandview, city administration will then have to determine what costs will be associated with the mandates and where the money will come from.

“They (Missouri Supreme Court) have made it clear that they want complete separation here,” said Gungor. “If that is what they want, then complete separation it is.”

Ultimately, the Grandview Board of Aldermen will determine what they feel is best suited for the City of Grandview, going forward. A public vote will take place during their regular session on Tuesday, August 14, 7 p.m., at Grandview City Hall.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Voters won’t decide on Jackson County Sheriff Tuesday


by Mary Wilson

The ballots have been printed. The polling places are beginning their setups. But, the candidates for Jackson County Sheriff are breathing a sigh of relief, for now.

On Tuesday, with one week before the upcoming election on August 7, a judge determined the primary for Jackson County Sheriff was not valid. Any votes cast for Sheriff on Tuesday’s election will not be counted, nor will they be used in consideration as democratic and republican party committee’s will appoint their respective candidates for election in November.

With the abrupt resignation of former Sheriff Mike Sharp in April, County Executive Frank White appointed interim Sheriff Darryl Forte’, former KCPD Chief of Police. The interim sheriff appointment is only through the end of the year, and a new sheriff will be sworn in to serve beginning January 1, 2019. This leaves the replacement being chosen by voters in November, based on the candidate provided from each party.

Jackson County provided the following statement regarding the Sheriff’s election:
“The Clerk of the Legislature, who serves as the election authority for candidate filing and calling county elections, asked for the assistance of the County Counselor’s Office in providing a legal opinion regarding the procedure to elect a sheriff to fill the remainder of the sheriff’s unexpired term, starting January 1, 2019. The County Counselor’s Office acknowledged a lack of clarity in the law on this point, but reviewed that law and prior precedent, and determined that the best way to proceed was to open candidate filings for a primary election. However, that determination was taken to court and the court has decided differently. The County will follow the court’s order.”

The judge’s ruling has no effect on other races, including legislature or county executive.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Grandview names local pastor as Civic Leader of the Year


by Mary Wilson

Tom Worstell’s community hats come in many colors, shapes and sizes. He is more than the pastor of Southview Christian Church in Grandview; he serves as a Police Chaplain, volunteers his time with the school district and at community events, and he’s recently been named the City of Grandview’s Civic Leader of the Year.

He grew up in the small Missouri town of Milan, and attended Central College of the Bible in Moberly, with the intention of becoming a youth pastor. After graduating, he landed the job at Southview Christian in Grandview, which has been his church home ever since.

“We’ve been here for over 20 years now,” said Worstell. “Honestly, I’ve not felt like God has called me to go anywhere else yet. I love the people here. I love the community. I don’t know of anywhere else where City Hall, the police and fire department, the parks and the schools and the churches all work together. Everyone wants the best for this city.”

It is that common goal of community betterment that sparked Worstell’s interest in becoming involved in more than just his church. He says that he is blessed to be in a church that not only allows him to be a part of the community, but also encourages and supports him to do so. While he may be the face of the church, he said, it’s the members of Southview Christian who are really doing the work.

“I’ve tried to do some of these same things in other places and in other communities, and it is unique,” said Worstell. “I don’t know where else you’d find what we have here. I love that about Grandview.”

A decade ago, Southview Christian was considering a move out of Grandview, looking at properties in Belton. The church felt like it had hit a point where they were no longer able to build on what they had in Grandview, and so naturally, the community service aspect of the church dropped off significantly.

“We just didn’t do much here for years because we were leaving,” said Worstell. “Then some things changed, we decided we were going to be here, and looking around we thought, ‘if we left, would anyone care or would anyone even notice?’ We knew we had neglected some things. We treated the church like it was a rental home, and this is our ‘home’ home.”

It was then that the church elders, and now Pastor Worstell decided to become more invested in the community, which didn’t happen overnight. He took on the notion that not only is he the pastor of Southview Christian Church, but he’s a pastor of the Grandview community as a whole.

“We had a group of people who said, ‘this is our city,’ and they wanted to be a part of this, too,” he said. “Really things started happening with the revamp of Truman’s Heritage Festival. Once we started going to that and volunteering there, all the connections with other aspects of the city just sort of fell into place.”

Worstell also serves as a chaplain with the Grandview Police Department. He says that the opportunity allows him to see a side of Grandview that he didn’t see before. The chaplains are there to assist officers and fire personnel with whatever they may need assistance with, sometimes being the person who breaks bad news to family or other similar tasks that police may not be trained in handling.

“It helps me see the bigger picture of the city,” said Worstell. “We get to be the light in someone’s darkest day, a lot of times. It’s a way to be a pastor to the city and help in a different way.”

He said it has helped build other connections in the city, with the Pastor’s Alliance being brought back to life between church leaders.

“There’s a lot of overlap, and we see each other a lot,” said Worstell. “We’re in for a penny; we’re in for a pound. Let’s just get involved everywhere.”

Being a chaplain has helped him become a better pastor to his congregation. The police ride-alongs, Worstell said, give him sermon material he wouldn’t otherwise have had.

“After 20 years, it’s just become kind of a natural friendship,” said Worstell. “I spend a lot of time with these people, and when it comes down to it, you are going to help your friends.”

Worstell and his wife, Nikki, have been together for 21 years this fall. Probably his most important job is that of dad to three sons: Thomas, 18, Jonathon, 16, and Timothy, 14; and to his daughter, five-year-old Hope, who was adopted by the family when she was born.

“We had three boys, and honestly, they were super easy. We had it made; it was easy and life was good,” said Worstell. “Then my wife said that she’d always had a dream that we’d have two dark-skinned, curly-haired girls in our family. I thought, ‘why mess this up?’ So, we got a dog.”

Apparently the dog didn’t cut it for Mrs. Worstell, and the family began looking seriously into adoption. After almost a year-and-a-half of not connecting with the right birth mothers, the Worstells received word that a baby girl had been born in Wichita, and if they could get there that night, she would be theirs.

“We were expecting maybe six months of planning time,” said Worstell. “It was literally that fast. Within half an hour, we were driving to Wichita, and we had a baby that night. It was amazing how it all happened.”

The family took out a second mortgage on their house in order to pay for the adoption, but with the help of grants, their church friends and family, the Worstells turned around and paid off the loan in a week.

Worstell was recognized by Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones and the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, July 24. He received a mayoral proclamation naming him as the City of Grandview’s Civic Leader of the Year.

“I do hereby express the heartfelt appreciation of the citizens of Grandview to Tom on this special occasion,” said Jones. “The Board of Aldermen recognizes Tom as a great ambassador for the city of Grandview, who has given selflessly to this community, sharing his time and talents to contribute to the betterment of the community.”

Friday, June 29, 2018

Flee. Fortify. Fight.

How to respond to an active shooter situation


by Mary Wilson

As part of the hospital’s ongoing commitment to community education, St. Joseph Medical Center last Thursday hosted the Kansas City Police Department for free active shooter training.

KCPD Sergeant Steve Schramm presented to around 50 participants, focusing on recognizing and protecting oneself from an active shooter situation in the workplace or in other public settings like malls, stores, restaurants and churches. Schramm has worked for KCPD since 1995, and has worked with tactical response teams to train his department on active shooters.

“Six or seven years ago, charter schools in Kansas City reached out to us wanting some type of plan,” said Schramm. “They needed some type of guidance for active shooter response. We put a presentation together that has since evolved three or four times. At this point, I now give this presentation about a half dozen times a week to businesses, schools, and churches, you name it. Anyone that asks for it, we’ll come out and provide at least an hour-long training.”

The department started doing active shooter drills for the charter and public schools to help develop their plan, which is no longer offered to the public. City Hall, the health and water departments, and other Kansas City organizations also receive the shooter drill trainings.  

“There are numerous programs out there for active shooter training,” said Schramm. “They’re all pretty much the same. They might be called something different, but I guarantee 90 percent of them are identical with maybe a different twist.”

Schramm said that while most of the time people know what to do for a fire or tornado drill, there has not been formal training for an active shooter situation. He added that each individual has to take ownership when it comes to active shooter training, because if the situation arises, no one will be telling everyone what to do or how to respond.

“You have to know what your options are,” said Schramm. “Our program is 100 percent options-based. At the beginning, schools and businesses used to just strictly have a lockdown. While that is great and very effective, it misses some key elements.”

KCPD focuses on Flee. Fortify. Fight. for their active shooter training. Similar to a lockdown, it provides an option to escape from a threat. The definition of an active shooter, according to Schramm, is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined or populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly.

“These take place in 10 minutes or less, but more often they occur in less than five minutes,” said Schramm. “It can happen in two to three minutes, depending on where you’re at. The trend right now is more open-air environments or venues. There’s a lot of concern with churches, and that’s a valid concern. But the reality of active shooters inside churches is very small.”

About 25 percent of active shooter instances are happening in school environments, according to Schramm. Half are occurring in the business world, including stores and restaurants or businesses that are not open to pedestrian traffic.

The number-one option, according to Schramm, is to flee, or run away from the threat of an active shooter, if possible. If fleeing is not an option, fortifying, or hiding in a safe, secure location where one can barricade oneself is best.

“We all do the same thing. We walk through the entrance of a building, and we walk out the same way we came in,” said Schramm. “We walk through the front door, and that’s our exit.”

Schramm said that it is important to know where the exits are in every building one enters. Familiarizing oneself inside of a structure can provide for easy and quick exits, which could potentially save lives. In restaurants, specifically, Schramm added that there is always an exit door through the kitchen.

If fleeing or fortifying are not options, Schramm said that the only thing left to do is to fight, or disengage, the threat. Using whatever is available as a weapon or distraction, including chairs, aerosol sprays, or objects that can be thrown, the goal is to stop the active shooter from creating additional harm.

“Suspects will not stop until they are stopped, run out of ammunition, or are faced with direct law enforcement,” said Schramm. “Sometimes they then commit suicide. The most important thing to take from any training you may have is to always be aware of your surroundings, and listen to your intuition. If something is telling you that things aren’t right, get out of the situation and seek help.”

The Kansas City Police Department offers their active shooter training through its Crisis Intervention Team. To find out more information about the training, contact the department at 816-234-5000. St. Joseph Medical Center provides free community education classes regularly. To find out more information, visit stjosephkc.com, or follow the hospital on social media.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

#WeAreGrandview recognized for changing community conversation


by Mary Wilson

From congratulating state champions to building comradery between neighbors, a new social media campaign in Grandview has gained popularity, and is receiving regional recognition.

We Are Grandview has been seen on Facebook and Twitter (#WeAreGrandview), in newsletters and on mailers, in print and online, and was even used as the theme for the Harry’s Hay Days parade. What began as a strategic marketing campaign to try and put a positive spin on Grandview’s image has become a clear message of change and evolution in the community.

A few years ago, the Grandview C-4 School District began a communication audit, focusing on how the district is perceived in and out of the Grandview community.

“For the district, one of the biggest findings that came out of the audit is that we were missing out on branding,” said Public Relations Coordinator Sheba Clarke. “This was huge and something that we really needed to pay attention to.”

At that time, after a conversation with some City of Grandview staff, Clarke discovered that the city was also thinking of Grandview’s perception and how to change it. Meetings began to take place to figure out how the district and the city could work together to put a brand on Grandview.

“We were learning that the perception was not our reality,” said Clarke, “not necessarily from people in the community, but more from folks outside. We figured that one voice, one message, was stronger than just a school district brand or a city brand. While we all have our own distinction, we all want to push the same message of who we are.”

We Are Grandview was born out of a cheer. Clarke said that during a high school pep rally, varsity cheerleaders chanted “we are Grandview” to help students get excited about an upcoming game.

“It just seemed so prideful,” said Clarke. “That’s what started the hashtag and the We Are Grandview slogan.”

Clarke added that she often hears from people outside of the community who may have a negative view of Grandview based on untrue information. From a city standpoint, one of the biggest challenges that Communications Manager Valarie Poindexter has is surrounding that perception and image.

“This is such a proud community,” said Poindexter. “It’s a beautiful community, but we have to overcome that challenge. I was immediately on-board with this because something has to be done. We have to be able to take back that narrative and we will tell the story.”

The brand provides residents and the community an avenue to express pride in the Grandview community. Clarke said that she has seen the We Are Grandview social media conversation from people all over the country.

“It really touches your heart when you see all of these great things, one after the other, these great stories from Grandview when you search We Are Grandview on social media,” said Poindexter.

The two decided to enter their We Are Grandview campaign in the Social Media Club of Kansas City’s annual AMPS awards, which was established four years ago to recognize outstanding social campaigns from brands, nonprofits, governments and educational institutions in the region. With no budget, no social media campaign software, and with a brand just underway, Poindexter and Clarke weren’t sure they even had a shot for last year’s deadline, and thought they may have more material to enter for their 2018 campaign.

“It has already begun to change the conversation,” said Clarke. “We definitely know that there is still a lot of work to be done, but we’re happy with where it’s going.”

They say their next hurdle is continuing the momentum they have created, and maintaining a positive brand message in the community.

“We Are Grandview makes a statement,” said Clarke. “I’d like it to be a story. When I think of ‘We Are Grandview,’ I think of people like Jane Bryan, who grew up in Grandview, who gives back time and time again on committees, in our schools, taught our kids and still very much involved in who we are. I think of residents like her. I think of the normal, everyday person who truly loves our community and does whatever they can do to give back.”

"We Are Grandview" is a story. It is a collective voice that defines who Grandview is as a community. It puts a face on the people who live, work, and have fun in Grandview. It is redefining what makes Grandview unique, and creating a positive buzz surrounding the community.

“If you come to Grandview, our hope is that you have gotten a good glimpse into who we are by the time you leave,” said Clarke. “That’s what this is all about.”

The We Are Grandview social media campaign was recognized as a gold winner on Tuesday night at the AMPS Awards Ceremony, held at Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Young entrepreneur creates her own future path

by Mary Wilson


With graduation now behind them, members of the class of 2018 are likely preparing to head off to college. Things like dorm room bedspreads, microwavable meals and PC versus Apple have taken priority as they set out to begin adulthood. However, one young graduate has her sights on things a little out of the ordinary for someone her age.

Kansas City native Arielle Nash, who spent the last four years at an elite private school, is ditching status quo and paving her way straight into entrepreneurship rather than heading off to a university for the next two, four or more years.

“My mom went to law school, and she has massive amounts of student loans that she is still paying,” said Nash. “I’ve always been sort of an outlier. Growing up the way I did, being exposed to different things, I always had this entrepreneurial spirit thanks to my dad. I’ve always wanted to do my own thing, be my own boss.”

Nash’s father, former Kansas City Councilman-turned real estate developer and economic development consultant Troy Nash, has been  a major influence in his daughter’s life and ambition, exposing her to city government and the world of corporations at a young age.

She has heard a lot of skepticism about her decision to forgo college, but she is determined to be taken seriously in the corporate world. One of the factors in Nash’s decision was the debt associated with a traditional four-year degree.

“I went to Pembroke Hill, and it is assumed that everybody goes to college right after graduation,” said Nash. “It’s a well-established feeder school for the Ivy Leagues. But, doing my research and knowing the things that my parents went through, I found there is nearly $1 trillion of student debt in my generation. I would be a part of that, and I didn’t want to start out my life at a financial disadvantage. I didn’t want the stress of making such a big financial decision when I’m so young.”

“You don’t know what you want to do when you’re 16, 17, 18 years old, that’s why people change their majors all the time,” said Nash. “I don’t want to spend money, time, effort and energy on something that may change.”

Spending her childhood seeing women in power has inspired Nash from the beginning. Women like former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, Ellen Darling, who runs the company her dad works for, and Janice Howroyd, the first African-American woman with a $1 billion business, have impacted and motivated Nash to pursue her dreams.

“I spent some time with Janice a few weeks ago in Detroit,” said Nash. “Being around her and seeing her entrepreneurial spirit, I thought, ‘why can’t I do something like this?’ I can do this too. These are ordinary women who have led extraordinary lives through their work ethic and dedication.”

Her company, Arielle Marie Nash Enterprises, serves as a consultant to corporations, nonprofits and other organizations to reach the millennial population. She works with companies to help employers attract and retain workforce, and then helping with branding, marketing and selling their goods to the younger generation.

“I am a millennial, and I know what millennials want,” said Nash. “What I’ve found is that others who are doing consulting with businesses are not millennials themselves, which is pretty funny to me. So I saw there was a gap, along with the generational gap in the workforce, and I can help people in management positions talk to and relate to the millennial population.”

Through the influence of her father, Nash is also interested in real estate development. Most recently, however, she published a book, Mixed Signals: Lessons Learned Outside the Classroom, which focuses on things teenage girls struggle with like social pressures and self-esteem issues.

“Nobody is really bold enough to talk about the real issues,” said Nash. “So, I wanted to write my book and tell my stories to help girls navigate this really vulnerable time in their lives.”
In the book, Nash addresses drugs and alcohol, self-harm, depression, and an array of subjects that a typical teenager may experience. Despite the social pressures and stigmas, Nash said there is a “light at the end of the tunnel and you can be successful.”

She will be taking a trip to China to help cultivate a worldwide consulting brand. She also hopes to break the millennial stereotype and prove that innovation and change can be positive. Nash said that she has received support from both of her parents, and gives credit to her father for showing her the ropes and providing real-world education.

“My dad has been one-hundred percent behind me doing this,” said Nash. “I spend every day all day with him, we’re business partners, really. Our relationship has morphed into this really cool partnership. I feel like school would be a waste of time and money for me, because four years from now, I’m going to be pretty well-established, while my classmates will just be starting out.”

She said, down the road, if she feels the need she will go to college, but that right now this was the best option for her. She’d like to continue to study Chinese, and will likely take classes here and there for different things, as necessary.

“I’d rather take risks now, while I’m still young,” said Nash. “I have the time, and I can always go back to school later. I don’t want to look back and wish I had done this or that.”

Nash’s book is available on Amazon, and her business can be found at ariellemnash.com. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Volunteers plant community garden in Terrace Lake



by Mary Wilson

Neighbors in one South Kansas City community are sharing their love of gardening and homegrown nourishment through their collective green thumbs.

Along undeveloped park land in the Terrace Lake Gardens neighborhood, resident Eilene Myers had visions of a way to utilize the unused space and bring neighbors together. The community garden has been established as a way homeowners and residents of Terrace Lake can connect with others in the association through planting.

“Last year, I wanted to do this project,” said Myers. “We had the garden shed in one of the four parks that our association maintains, and just ran out of time to get the garden going then.”

The association learned that, according to city ordinances, the shed on the park ground could not be there unless it was adjacent to a home or an established community garden.

“It was something we already wanted to do, so it worked out really well,” said Myers. “I want it to be something that everyone can get involved in, including renters and everyone who lives over here. I hope that it fosters some ownership of the neighborhood and gets people out and talking to one another.”

Myers, with funding help from the homeowner’s association and a few committed gardeners, rented a truck and purchased the supplies, including two full loads of dirt.

“All of these people came out to help,” said Myers. “Wonderful people showed up with wheelbarrows and shovels, too. I’ve had other people volunteer to come help water and weed throughout the season.”

Homeowners or residents of Terrace Lake Gardens can rent space in the garden on an annual basis. They are then responsible for their plot, tending to it for the season, then winterizing it and keeping it for the next year or releasing the plot for another resident. The garden is still a work in progress, and Myers hopes to expand the available plots as interest in the community grows.

“If it wasn’t for Eilene, we wouldn’t have this,” said resident and community garden volunteer John Dell. “She got the dirt here and unloaded all the boards herself. We had community members out here hauling dirt and helping build who aren’t planting, but just wanted to chip in and help.”

Myers said the response from neighbors in her community has been positive. Any resident of Terrace Lake interested in becoming involved with the community garden can contact Myers by emailing eilenemyers@hotmail.com.