by Ivan Foley
The deal that transfers ownership of park land from Platte County to the City of Parkville includes $236,000 in cash from the county to the city.
Involved in the transaction is the land that serves as Platte Landing Park in downtown Parkville, adjacent to English Landing Park.
The payment of $236,000 is intended to be equal to around 20 years of maintenance costs, county officials said.
Parkville is already responsible for maintenance and improvements to the park property, Ron Schieber, presiding county commissioner, explained.
With this new deal, the city takes over all future capital maintenance obligations and will also continue normal maintenance of the park, county officials said. Under terms of the deal, the park property “will have to stay a park,” Schieber has said.
The deal will give Parkville full control and all liability and responsibility for Platte Landing Park. In the original construction of the park, a boat ramp was built under a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and also with the Missouri Department of Conservation. Those two agencies approve of the county’s new deal with the city, county officials said.
The City of Parkville recently approved a project agreement with the United States Corps of Engineers to construct a wetlands project in the heart of the park near downtown Parkville.
“We’re trying to reduce the long term costs of our parks maintenance. If it takes some money up front to do that, we are willing to do that,” Schieber remarked about the deal with the city.
“Our goal is to put the county in a position where we have less long term maintenance costs so we can reduce the park tax,” Schieber added, referring to the county’s half cent sales tax for parks.
The current commission of Schieber, Dagmar Wood and John Elliott have indicated a preference to restructure that half cent tax in the future to designate a portion of that half cent to go to law enforcement and capital improvements.
The current half cent sales tax for parks sunsets in the year 2020. The commission has the option to present a redesigned sales tax to voters prior to the current tax expiring.
Wood said the city’s plan for a wetlands in Platte Landing Park is not something that the county commission considered a priority for the land.
The proposed wetlands area would cover about 100 acres. The wetlands project would be fully funded through federal funds and not require any local funds, Parkville officials have said.
Parkville will be responsible for maintenance of the wetlands after the first three years. City officials have said the expected yearly cost of maintenance of the wetlands after the first three year period is between $5,000 and $10,000.
Proponents say a wetlands project will become home to many lowland plants as well as frogs, fish and small mammals. The areas draw migratory birds and can even attract eagles and hawks. Critics of the plan have privately raised concerns about the wetlands potentially becoming a breeding area for mosquitoes.
Alysen Abel, Parkville’s public works director, recently said the city sprays in the park every Friday to control mosquitoes. She said an established wetland should attract birds to eat mosquitoes.
“Parkville has a strong inclination to have a wetland installed and this land deal is a path for them to be able to do that. Installing wetlands with the Corps of Engineers is not a priority for this commission, so we are giving Parkville that opportunity by having them take over the property,” Wood said.
“All people care about is that the park is maintained well. They don’t care whose name is on the deed,” Wood added.
In a recent interview with The Landmark, all three commissioners praised Parkville for its work on maintenance and park improvements.
“Parkville is a really good parks partner,” Wood said.
Another advantage mentioned by commissioners is the deal will allow the county to get away from any liability associated with the boat ramp inside Platte Landing Park. The ramp has been the site of an incident or two, most notably the death of Toni Anderson, whose body and vehicle were pulled from the Missouri River after she entered the river by driving down the boat ramp. Originally from Wichita but living in Kansas City, Anderson had gone missing in January. Her body and vehicle were pulled from the river in March.
Elliott said the move is part of a big picture stance taken by the current county commission.
“Our goal is to reduce liability and long term maintenance costs in every area of government,” Elliott remarked. “No idea that shrinks the size of government, lowers taxes, protects the tax base, privately grows business, increases efficiency, improves services is off the table with us.”