Westward Ho!

This wagon train scene titled “Westward to a New Life” is part of the mural on the south side of the nearly finished Kansas City Area Transportation Authority 3-Trail Transit Center at 9449 Blue Ridge Blvd.

New Transit Center murals commemorate pioneers of color

Colorful murals depicting travelers on the historic trails that traversed south Kansas City and the routes of the trails have been installed on the sides of the nearly completed Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) 3-Trails Transit Center at 9449 Blue Ridge Blvd.

The new center, which is a hub for six bus routes, includes shelters with real time arrival signs, bike racks, 26 park and ride spaces and lighting. Touch-activated screens give information about the trails and those commemorated in the murals as well as the bus system.

The mural on the south side of the center titled “Westward to a New Life” depicts a wagon train heading west and shows the entire routes of the California, Oregon and Santa Fe historic trails.

It also shows the 46-mile 3-Trails Corridor, which passes within a few hundred yards of the center, where the three trails ran together from Wayne City Landing on the Missouri River in Sugar Creek to the Gardner Junction in Kansas where they diverged.  

That map includes the locations of several south Kansas City historic sites associated with the trails including Cave Spring at the Barnes Enclosure, the Wieduwilt Swales (depressions left by the wagon trains), Schumacher Park, Hart Grove Campground, Minor Park Swales and the New Santa Fe Cemetery.   

While many historical markers, particularly older ones, overlook the contributions of people of color and women to our nation’s history, that is not the case with these murals.

The mural on the north side of the center features portraits of three African-American women who suffered through slavery, traveled the trails and went on to great prominence.

The center also has been designated as a Trailhead by the National Park Service and a formal dedication ceremony by the Park Service and the KCATA should take place sometime early in 2018, hopefully in warmer weather.

Lou Austin, an area resident who is a nationally known advocate for connecting the reconstructed portions of the 3-Trails Corridor so persons can walk the entire 46-mile route who was a key leader in this successful effort to commemorate the overlooked role of African-American women as trail travelers, told me he believes some of Emily Fisher’s descendants will attend the dedication.

Coupled with the portraits of trail travelers and area residents on the new Red Bridge Rd. bridge over the Blue River which reflect the true gender and racial diversity of the area during that era, south Kansas City is becoming an area known for accurately portraying the contributions to our nation’s history of all people.

Robbie Mackinen, KCATA president/CEO, received the annual Construction User Award from the National Institute for Construction Excellence in October for construction of this center for the benefits it provides to the community.

City Councilman Kevin McManus speaks to the crowd waiting to visit with Santa Claus at Santa’s Wonderland at The Bay Water Park on December 16.  About 300 people attended the free event put on by the City Parks & Recreation Department and co-sponsored by several area elected officials and community groups

135th St.,  Holmes Rd. Projects Passed

Ordinances to finish the improvements to 135th St. and to design improvements to Holmes Rd. from Blue Ridge Blvd. to 137th St. were approved unanimously by the KCMO City Council December 14.

The 135th St. ordinance authorizes the city director of public works to enter into a roughly $2,500,000 contract with JM Fahey Construction Company to continue the improvements already constructed between Holmes and Wornall Rds. west to 150 Highway.

Chad Thompson, assistant city engineer, told me prior to the ordinance’s passage that work on the project should start in late winter or early spring and be finished in late 2018.  He said it will include installation of curbs and gutters, sidewalks on both sides of the street, storm sewers, street widening and repaving, street lights and water line adjustments and spot repairs.

He said the 5-foot wide north side sidewalk will transition to a 10-foot wide trail from just west of Wyandotte to 150 Highway.

The Holmes Rd. ordinance authorizes the public works director to enter into an agreement for approximately $420,000 with Shafer, Kline and Warren to complete the final design of future improvements including installation of curbs and gutters, sidewalks, storm sewers, street widening and streetlights.

Thompson said the design work should take about a year and a half to complete.

City Councilman Kevin McManus noted during Council discussion that the two ordinances complement one another.  

He thanked the Martin City Community Improvement District for its financial assistance and support for the 135th St. improvements, which he called a really good example of a public/private partnership during a Council committee hearing on the ordinance.

“This will eliminate people having to walk in the street,” he told the committee.

During Council discussion, Councilman Scott Taylor stressed the importance of continuing to improve public infrastructure in Martin City to support the significant private investments being made in the area.

Holiday Lights

Persons may take their worn-out Christmas lights to any area Mid-Continent Public Library branch, Westlake Ace Hardware store or Walmart for recycling.  

Used lights are accepted for recycling through January 12 at the branch libraries and hardware stores and through December 31 at Walmarts.

These locations collect worn-out Christmas lights so they can be recycled at Southeast Enterprises, a local nonprofit sheltered workshop that employs over 160 adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities.  This keeps the lights out of landfills and provides work for the workshop’s employees.

Last year the annual drive saved over 45,000 pounds of holiday lights from going to landfills.  Now in its 7th year, the goal of this year’s drive is to collect over 50,000 pounds.

Other recyclable items such as aluminum cans, cardboard, gift boxes, glass, magazines, newspapers, office paper, plastics #1-7, press board (such as cereal boxes) and tin cans can be taken to the recycling drop-off center operated by Bridging the Gap at 5200 E. Red Bridge Rd. just west of I-49 for no charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.  (Gift wrapping paper is not recyclable.)

School Board Elections

Filing is now open for seats on the seven-member Center, Grandview and Hickman Mills Boards of Education.

The April 3 election will select two board members in Center who will serve 3-year terms, two board members in Grandview who will serve 3-year terms and one member who will serve a 2-year term, and two board members in Hickman Mills who will serve 3-year terms and one member who will serve a 1-year term.

Candidates must file at the respective district offices and will be placed on the ballot in the order of filing.  The filing deadline is 5 p.m. Tuesday, January 16, in Grandview and Hickman Mills and 5 p.m. Tuesday, January 23, in Center, according to legal notices published by each district.

Distinguished Alumni

The Center Education Foundation has announced the recipients of its 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards which will be presented at its annual Autos & Auctions gala at the Armacost Auto Museum, 4200 E. 135th St. in Grandview, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, February 24.

The winners are Steve Currall, PhD, Center High School class of 1977, and Stephen Smalley, MD, class of 1973.

Curall received his doctorate degree from Cornell University and is the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.  His research area is organizational psychology, and he has published numerous articles and books on the subject.

Smalley, a graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine, is a renowned radiation oncologist who is a clinical professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center and continues to practice medicine in the Kansas City area.

Tickets for the gala which is the primary fundraising event for the Foundation are $75 and include dinner and two drinks.  This year’s gala raised over $51,000 for grants to teachers for special projects to assist district students.

Tickets may be ordered online at www.centereducationfoundation.org.

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