Roeland Park mayoral candidates on the issues: How to fund continued improvement of city parks

Workers were able to plant new trees in R Park to replace culled ashes with the help of funds raised by a group of citizens.
Workers were able to plant new trees in R Park to replace culled ashes with the help of funds raised by a group of citizens.

Today we continue with responses from the candidates for Roeland Park mayor to the questionnaire items we developed with reader input last month. The third question is as follows:

A group of Roeland Park citizens have taken it upon themselves to raise funds for the continued development of R Park. Do you support further development and preservation of existing parks in Roeland Park? If so, what features would you like to see added to community parks? How should those developments be funded?

Note: Candidate Linda Mau did not respond to today’s question.

Scott Gregory

Scott-Gregory_CPAThis topic is a tough one for me. I supported a residential development for the former school property, including a part of it as a park. Years of back and forth on the fate of the property ate up hundreds of thousands of dollars. I ultimately voted to declare it a park just to stop the bleeding.. By the time it was declared a park the Great Recession was upon us, and funds for proper development of the park were unavailable. Right behind came Wal-Mart’s announcement that they intended to leave, precipitating the financial crisis discussed earlier. The Council, at the time of voting for the park, agreed to use the proceeds from the sale of the cloverleaf to Commerce Bank to pay off the debt on the park. That was not done. Instead those funds were funneled into the reserve for what might come in the Wal-Mart situation. The lesson there is that actions of one council are not necessarily respected by subsequent councils.

For all those reasons, the efforts of fund-raisers for the park have been its saving grace. Since the financial future is unknown (See Wal-Mart issue.) I do not see funds available to major improvements to the park. The probable termination of the County’s involvement in the aquatic center further clouds the issue. For the foreseeable future the funds raised by the R Park devotees are the only significant source of funds for R Park.

Mike Kelly

Mike-Kelly_HeadshotParks are an important part of our city. They encourage exercise, provide a safe place for our kids to play, and build bonds within our community. I want to continue to foster the beautification and redesign of our parks and green spaces. Nall Park and R Park have come a long way. We can continue this trend by adding shaded spaces, better sanitation and recycling options, and bicycling opportunities to – and within – our parks. The citizens’ fundraising group should be proud of their efforts at R Park, having already raised $70,000 and still going strong. I will encourage R Park’s continued development, which is a welcome benefit to Roeland Park. The city must continue to fund the parks, as they are some of our greatest community assets.

Roger Cooper

Roger_CooperI’ve heard from many residents expressing their concerns that the governing body is giving R Park too much attention in terms of new amenities. R Park is a great park as it is. With the exception of the deteriorating tennis courts needing to be fixed R Park is becoming a pet project for a few vocal residents and has received more than its fair share of focus. We need to focus on the core needs of the community as a whole and not just one small, but beautiful, green space on one side of the city. Too often people get focused on one small part of our great town and the rest of it suffers. We need to continue to maintain green space and keep it as a safe and welcoming environment for all. But, we do not need to take away from out city’s more pressing concerns by putting too much attention on parks. We do not grow a tax base with a park. By making a charity group in charge of an asset of our city, the city loses control and allows a minority to speak for the majority, which is not a good thing.

Tomorrow, we’ll run the candidates responses to question number four:

Roeland Park faces a challenge in finding a new, long-term home for its public works operation. Where do you think the city should locate its public works facility? Why?