A group of Roeland Park residents are organizing a long-term campaign to help the community of 6,800 fill a gap left by the forthcoming exit of Walmart from the city: money to build a real park.
The city purchased the site of the former Roeland Park Elementary School in March 2005, and declared that it would be a park in March 2010. At that time, the city paid for the development of a comprehensive plan that laid out detailed plans and cost estimates for what is now called R Park. But when word came last year that Walmart was planning on pulling out of the city in 2015 in favor of a new store at the Mission Gateway development, city leaders knew the departing sales tax proceeds from the store would leave a huge hole in the city’s budget. The $435,000 required to build out the R Park envisioned in the city’s comprehensive would be hard to come by.
Faced with the prospect of waiting years for the city to be able to allocate funds for the park improvements, a group of nine residents have come together to plan fundraising activities to make the R Park renovations a reality. Group leader Gretchen Davis said she and her collaborators knew without a grassroots effort, the prospects of making the R Park plan come to fruition were slim.
“It was clear that it would be a long time before anything could happen to the park site — and what a shame for Roeland Park not to have a full-fledged park of its own,” Davis said. “We need a park if we’re going to attract young families here. We said, if this is going to happen, we citizens are going to have to make it happen.”
Davis presented the groups plans for a first fundraising drive to the city council on Monday. The group is looking for 63 households or businesses to donate $100 each by Roeland Park’s 63rd birthday on July 2. The group would plan on donating the proceeding $6,300 to the Roeland Park Community Foundation with the intent that the city allocate it to the construction of the walking path laid out in the park plan. Donors will receive recognition in Roeland Park publications as get to celebrate the city’s 63rd birthday with Mayor Joel Marquardt.
The group is also planning on holding a “Bacon, Blues and Brews Fest” in October to raise funds for the park.
People interested in donating to the path effort should take a check payable to the Roeland Park Community Foundation to Roeland Park City Hall, 4600 West 51st Street, Roeland Park, KS 66205 Attn: Debra Mootz. The memo on the check should read “R Park Walking Path.”