Recreation Options Abound in Kansas City's Northland
PHOTO CREDIT: Wes Aldridge
From a giant penguin slide to a 10‚000-member community center‚ Kansas City’s Northland has plenty to offer adventure-seekers of all ages. Residents and tourists alike find no shortage of green space‚ attractions and recreational opportunities in Clay and Platte counties‚ and in the last few years‚ local governments have united to ensure that progressive parks and recreation development continues well into the future. The two counties have teamed up with Kansas City in a partnership to begin developing the Northland Trails‚ which is envisioned as a 600-mile trail network to be created during the next 40-50 years. So far‚ about 12 miles of these trails have been opened in Platte County in three segments‚ and additional trails are under construction‚ according to Brian Nowotny‚ director of Platte County Parks & Recreation. “The trail in the Prairie Creek Greenway provides recreation right on the edge of suburban growth‚” Nowotny says. “It includes 120 acres of preserved greenway along the creek that the county acquired to protect a rapidly growing Northland area‚ and some prairie restoration is under way here.” An 11-mile portion of the Missouri Riverfront Trail in southern Platte County is expected to open by winter‚ Nowotny says‚ noting that part of this trail runs through the popular English Landing Park‚ which features a large baseball field‚ a bandstand‚ play ground and picnic areas along the beautiful Missouri River. Another destination offering scenic‚ waterfront views in the Northland is Smithville Lake in Clay County. With more than 175 miles of shoreline and covering 7‚200 acres‚ the lake offers two full-service marinas‚ a sailboat area‚ two 18-hole golf courses‚ two campgrounds and plenty of trails for hiking‚ biking and horseback riding. Also‚ Clay County is in its second year of a 10-year‚ 2‚200-acre prairie restoration project at Smithville Lake‚ according to Mike Kaullen‚ deputy director of Clay County Department of Parks‚ Recreation and Historic Sites. “We are planning to restore 1‚100 acres of native flowers and 1‚100 acres of trees‚” Kaullen says. “So far‚ we have planted about 120 acres of flowers.” Residents also can enjoy outdoor activities in Tiffany Hills Park in Kansas City North. A competitive-level baseball field recently opened in the park‚ along with The Springs Aquatic Center‚ an $8 million facility. The Springs features two water slides‚ a lazy river‚ a 50-meter competitive pool and a zero-depth-entry pool with spray features. The aquatic center’s first season in the summer of 2006 attracted more than 50‚000 attendees‚ according to Mike Herron north region manager for the Kansas City‚ Mo.‚ Parks and Recreation Department. Sports enthusiasts who enjoy water of the frozen variety do not have to travel far; Snow Creek ski resort in Weston offers a variety of winter sports such as snow skiing‚ boarding and tubing. Also in Platte County‚ two new YMCA community centers recently opened‚ and more than 10‚000 members have joined the one in Parkville. A Northland attraction that is particularly popular with families with small children is Penguin Park on North Norton Avenue and Vivion Road in Kansas City. A top pick for picnics and birthday parties‚ the park incorporates giant animals into its play area‚ including a 22-foot penguin figurine with a slide at its base. And recreation comes with education at the Shoal Creek Living History Museum in Hodge Park‚ a village of 22 historic buildings that are ready for exploration. “At Shoal Creek‚ when you stand in the middle of the village‚ you would think you were back in the 1800s‚” says Tammie Tritico‚ north region assistant manager for the Kansas City‚ Mo.‚ Parks and Recreation Department. “There is no visible sign of modern life there‚ and students can attend school there‚ just like they did in the 1800s.” Private enterprise recreational facilities also continue to invest in their developments here‚ such as Oceans of Fun and Worlds of Fun in southern Clay County. Worlds of Fun made its largest expenditure on a single ride to date in 2006 when it added the $14 million‚ 149-foot-tall inverted Patriot roller coaster‚ according to Chris Ozimek‚ director of marketing for both of the amusement parks.