Opponents: Lights would negatively impact wetlands, neighbors
he voices of Parkville residents who were concerned about how possible ballfield lighting at a city park near a wetlands habitat would interfere with wildlife and impact neighborhoods were heard.
The Parkville Board of Aldermen voted unanimously last Tuesday night to revise an application for a $1 million Platte County grant to upgrade city-owned Platte Landing Park. The revision includes several items, but most importantly to the residents who spoke, strikes language about electrical conduit to ostensibly provide lighting for nighttime play at baseball fields in the park.
Several residents spoke to board members at the meeting and were concerned about lighting’s effects on the adjoining federally funded habitat area. The residents said lighting would disrupt the ecosystem and would jeopardize not only their peaceful neighborhood but also the native bird and wildlife species.
The revisions also include changing wording that describes plans for “portable buildings” to house concessions, restrooms, and office/storage to “permanent buildings housing restrooms and storage.”
Nearly 115 comments were written on the city’s Facebook page during the more than two-hour portion of the meeting in which numerous residents also spoke about their concerns. Those who spoke mostly expressed concerns about how a conservationist had informed them that lighting would confuse the birds, in many cases, leading to their death. The federal wetlands are rare across the country and perhaps the only such respite for migrating birds in the Kansas City area, some told the board.
A preliminary design submitted with the recent Platte County grant application included four ball fields overlapped with four multi-purpose fields and 275 parking spaces. But the grant application proposal includes amenities not included in the original plan, including a controversial $100,000 for conduit for a lighting system. The city would contribute $300,000 in a “match” for the conduit, according to the original grant application.
If the county awards Parkville the grant, the city will provide $3 million to the project, which will be paid for with revenues from a 2019 voter-approved half cent parks sales tax, Public Works Director Alysen Abel said in an email.
According to a grant application for what is referred to as the Platte Landing Park Ballfield Complex, the city currently has three ballfields in neighboring English Landing Park. “The existing ballfields are used regularly” and “recreation fields in the metro area in general are heavily used.”
“Several sporting groups have reached out to the city in support of the construction of the new ballfield complex,” the city states in its application for a Platte County Parks and Recreation Partnership Grant.
Abel told The Landmark several teams currently use the city’s existing ball fields and the fields are rented on an hourly basis.
Abel emphasized repeatedly during the board meeting that no decisions about lighting or other amenities had been made and that the grant application listed the proposed lighting conduit as “a place holder.”
At several points in the meeting, aldermen were talking over each other. “Please. I am old,” Alderman Greg Plumb said. “I can only hear one person at a time.”
A somewhat heated exchange ensued between aldermen Marc Sportsman, who expressed his support for local youth and their parents who need a place to play baseball close to home, and Philip Wassmer, who said he was concerned about several aspects of the plan.
Sportsman said, “We should do everything we can to secure those moneys.” Instead, Sportsman said it seemed as if Wassmer, whose ward falls in the park area, and others were asking, ” ‘what can we do to squash the ball fields at Platte Landing Park?'” to which Wassmer replied, “No, Marc. Don’t tell me what I think.”
Wassmer said he believed the project should not cost as much as projected.
“I just don’t think it costs $4 million. Our ask is too big.”
After much debate, Mayor Nan Johnston proposed opening the meeting for public comments since, she said, numerous residents had “waited patiently” to speak. Parkville resident John Carter told city officials at the board meeting that “the current administration is pushing progress in their eyes,” adding that many citizens disagree. “Residents prefer the charm and aesthetics of Parkville,” he said.
Barbara Loveless called the plan “a hot, hot, hot mess” and said, “if we’re using county funds, we should make sure we need them.”
Residents also expressed concern about added traffic in the area, which includes not only players and parents, but also spectators. A one-lane bridge leading to the ballfields caused comments and many residents asked for a traffic study to determine the best plan for managing the flow.
Mary Nemecek, conservation chair of the Burroughs Audubon Society of Greater Kansas City, said in an email prior to the board meeting that she especially was concerned about the effects of proposed lighting at the complex, which will confuse native wetland birds, whose habitat is dangerously lacking throughout the country. She said the proposed lighting will interrupt their migratory patterns and result in the deaths of many.
“It appears they (city officials) have already made up their mind and are just not admitting it to the taxpayers-who have already invested millions in federal tax dollars in the wetlands project,” she said in an email to The Landmark. The $2 million federally funded grant project, established in 2020 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was designed to make up for a loss of habitat across the country. She wrote that the local group she represents has nearly 2,000 members throughout the Kansas City area and their mission is to “promote the appreciation of birds, nature, natural history, education, and the conservation of habitat.” In addition to providing wildlife habitat, the adjoining wetlands are designed “to act like a sponge for flooding events,” reducing the impact of Missouri River flooding in the area, she said.
Wassmer and Tina Welch, the other alderman whose ward includes the park, both had concerns about the plan, especially after speaking with constituents. In a telephone interview prior to the board meeting, Wassmer said he and Welch were having discussions with other board members to point out the expanded plan’s shortcomings.
Welch said in an email that voters approved the plan when it did not include the added amenities. “There was no mention of competition fields in the literature that went out to voters,” she said. “I can tell you that if that was on the literature it would have been voted down.” Welch did not reply to an emailed question about whether the city can support the proposed fields in addition to the competitive baseball fields already located in Parkville as part of the Creekside Development.
Welch addressed other citizen concerns about increased traffic in the area.
“Sadly, there has not been a traffic study done to date,” she said. “My constituents are extremely concerned about the amount of traffic this will bring.” she said, adding areas of concern include Main Street, Hwy. 9 and FF and a one-lane bridge leading into the park.
Concerned residents have established a Facebook page to disseminate information about the parks issue: www.facebook.com/Save-Parkvilles-Charm-Save-Our-Parks-103467691826405 <www.facebook.com/Save-Parkvilles-Charm-Save-Our-Parks-10346769182640 5> .
In an email following the meeting, Wassmer said he is pleased with the outcome. “This is at least a step in the right direction towards not over developing Platte Landing Park,” he wrote.
Johnston summed up the outcome at the close of the meeting when she said the changes should help “to instill some confidence in your elected officials.” She added that “a lot of planning has gone into this over the years” and it’s “not just something popping down because we might get a million dollars.”