By Daryl Penner
In a non-stop world inundated with 500 cable TV stations, 24/7 texting and wall-to-wall traffic, there’s no question this over-stimulation bombards the psyche and affects our bodies and souls.
Visiting Minor Park in south Kansas City is just what the doctor ordered for relief.
Located just east of Red Bridge Shopping Center exists this hidden gem of a park that can provide a restorative refuge for individuals in many ways.
It is easy to drive by the park one hundred times and not realize it contains more than just a golf course and driving range, because golf is all that is visible from the roads.
This suburban oasis stretches from Holmes road, along Red Bridge road to Blue River road but the sightlines of the park’s amenities are blocked by trees and the sloped topography. They can only be viewed by turning onto the winding access roads to reveal them.
The total size of the park is more than 220 acres, making it one of the top ten largest parks in Kansas City, MO, out of the more than 200 public parks. It is twice as large as the combined size of the three largest parks south of the Country Club Plaza, including Tower Park, Loose Park and Sunnyside Park.
Within the park, there are 12 tennis courts and backboard (accessible off of Blue River Road), six new pickleball courts (one of only six parks in the entire city with pickleball), a drone/remote control airplane flying area, two full basketball courts, a cricket field, picnic shelter and soccer fields. A visitor can easily spend hours going from activity to activity.
But perhaps most interestingly, the Blue river runs through it. Before governmental excavating, the Blue River was deep and known as the Big Blue River. At higher tides, there is swimming, kayaking, or fishing from large boulders or toppled trees.
In 1859, a 100-foot wooden-covered bridge was constructed north of the park and painted red. Thus the Red Bridge name was adopted for the area. Because three major trails, the California, Oregon and Santa Fe trails all intersected there, it is believed that thousands of wagon trains passed over the red bridge during those years, as there were few bridges along the 40-mile-long Blue River.
Twice replacement bridges were built, including one in 1932. That bridge lasted for nearly 80 years, until it was decommissioned in 2013. Once decommissioned it was left in place, so a newer wider bridge could replace it. The old bridge became part of the walking trails and was repurposed as the location for the Red Bridge Love Locks tradition, where lovers declare their everlasting love for one another by attaching a padlock to the red steel bars or gates.
Currently more than 5,000 locks are affixed to the bridge. However, that small number, in a city of more than 500,000 people, perhaps best highlights the underutilization of this wonderful park.
Along the river there are acres of trails used by joggers, (dog) walkers and mountain bikers. The trails are arguably one of the most soul-enriching areas in all of Kansas City. Because of their proximity to the robust river, the three major trails and a bridge to cross the river, it seems likely at some point these same trails might have possibly seen the likes of Jesse James or Daniel Boone walking through the thick forests or camping nearby.
The dense trees with huge dangling vines and thick canopies seem like the perfect setting to hideout from the law. Even after being thinned out over the years by the Parks and Recreation Department, their tremendous density still makes a substantially cooler temperature difference under the trees.
To bring you back to reality, an added and amusing bonus of spending time in the park is the abrupt resonance of occasional loud rumbling sounds and vibrations of the trains running nearby through the park. It’s a uniqueness that very few of the city’s other parks have.
Governments create public parks to provide a better quality of life, where citizens can unwind and release tension at low or no cost. Minor Park is an excellent example of this benefit.
As one health expert explained so perfectly, “We have a need for parks and green space, and to connect with nature, just as surely as we have a need for water. They feed our souls.”