A Day At The Beach
JUNE 21, 2016 - jacksongov.org
Kids laugh. They play in the sand. They splash in the water.
Sounds like just another typical summer’s day at Longview Lake Beach, right? Except many of these children have never before experienced the simple fun available to them through Jackson County Parks + Rec. Until now.
“We can’t bring the parks to the kids in Kansas City, but we can bring the kids to the parks,” said Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr., smiling as he soaked up the sun — and the children’s laughter.
Jackson County and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) teamed up to give 28 boys and girls from the Whatsoever Community Center — located on Kansas City's east side — an afternoon at the beach Tuesday. The KCATA provided what can be a major barrier preventing city children from enjoying the nation’s third largest county parks system: transportation.
"I can guarantee for these kids this is a first," said Whatsoever Executive Director Charlie Gaseich. "For most of them their whole world is that six square-block area around our center. There's nothing like this in our neighborhood."
No Sharks Or Piranhas
Whatsoever's budget makes a trip to the beach "one of those extra things," Gaseich continued, that the 100-year-old organization can rarely afford. "And we only have a 15-person van, so it's not even feasible transportation-wise."
When the KCATA offered to bus the kids to Longview Lake with the county granting them free admission, Gaseich jumped at the chance. Although they've been eagerly anticipating the outing the last two or three weeks, a few of kids expressed some serious concerns.
County Executive Frank White, Jr. chats with KCATA President and CEO Robbie Makinen and Whatsoever Executive Director Charlie Gaseich — possibly about how refreshing it might be to join the kids in the water at Longview Lake Beach on another day that saw temperatures climb into the mid-90s.
OFF THE BUS
"My cousin over there was worried," 10-year-old Remel said, pointing at another little boy in the water. "I had to keep telling him there are no sharks or piranhas in the lake."
KCATA President and CEO Robbie Makinen chuckled. "I don't think some of these kids had ever seen a lake before," he said. "But they have now."
The Parks Are For Everyone!
Jackson County Executive Frank White can relate to these youngsters from the Whatsoever Community Center. During his Feb. 19 State of the County address, he pointed out that while he was growing up in KC in the 1960s his family never considered going out to Lake Jacomo or any other county park. "The city and the county were like two different worlds," he said.
Tuesday's outing, White stated, represents just the first step in "helping people from the inner city discover the opportunities available to them in their county parks." At least two more trips are being planned for later this year, again in coordination with the KCATA, to bring groups from Kansas City to the parks — another one for children and one for senior citizens.
"Just look at these kids in the water behind me having a great time," White said, "When I took this job, I wanted to make sure people on the west side of Kansas City and in neighborhoods like the Northeast would have opportunities to come here to eastern Jackson County and experience the vast array of things available to them in our parks: swimming, fishing, boating, golfing... I want them to experience all Jackson County has to offer them."
Without this new Jackson County-KCATA initiative the Longview Lake Beach might have seemed to be a world away to the kids from Whatsoever. "This is a lifetime experience that they will tell their friends and family about," Gaseich said, "and they'll want them to all come out here. It's fun. It's safe. It's wonderful."
Makinen is eager to hear more kids laughing and splashing about.
"The KCATA is honored to be a part of this partnership," he said. "This is just great for these kids. The fun part of this was when I was riding out here on the bus with the kids and I had to tell them there are no sharks in the lake. I had to convince them of that."
Just before he jumped back into the warm water, Remel rolled his eyes and groaned, "I tried telling everybody there's no sharks in this lake."