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Karnes Playground, Roanoke Park
By Michael Miyamoto, LASN


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The new Karnes Playground in Roanoke Park, Kansas City, Mo., had its grand opening in April 2016. Erica Flad, PLA, LEED Green Associate, of the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department, and Heather Runkel, PLA, ASLA, formerly of the same department but now with Denver Parks and Recreation, were the landscape architects for the project. One of the goals was to make the playground fit well within the natural surroundings, according to Tim McNamara, CPSI, co-owner of ABCreative. The landscape architects worked closely with this company to identify play structures and equipment that would meet the needs of the Parks Department and the ideas of the neighbors, Flad said. The firm coordinated the purchasing and installation of the play equipment.
Photo credit: ABCreative


For years, Roanoke Park in Kansas City, Mo., was little used and sat in a state of disrepair. But starting in about 2010, it slowly underwent a change, and today it looks nothing like what it did before.

Roanoke Park is located in midtown Kansas City and is just minutes from downtown. In recent years, more and more families have been moving to the midtown area from the suburbs to raise their children.

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Pegasus is the 26-foot, 7-inch tall centerpiece of the Karnes Playground. Because of its height, it offers a large enough space inside the net for both children and adults, something not found in many traditional playground solutions, McNamara said. The net features a patented tensioning system that removes all technical connections from the play zone and also allows for the net to be tensioned evenly across the entire structure.


The landscape architects for the playground project were Erica Flad, PLA, LEED, green associate, and senior landscape architect with the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department; and Heather Runkel, PLA, ASLA, formerly in the same department. Runkel now works for Denver Parks and Recreation.

"The neighborhoods surrounding Roanoke Park -- Coleman Heights, Volker, Roanoke and Valentine -- have seen an influx of families," Flad said.

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The first phase of the park included an 8-foot high circular synthetic land form with a hill slide, swings, a net climber, natural stone seating, a "dry pond" with sand, boulders and a small boardwalk. The 5-foot wide stainless steel slide can accommodate as many as five children at a time. About 210 Prairie Dropseed grasses were planted on one side of the mound. Volunteers installed the plants the weekend before the grand opening.


Roanoke Park had been the victim of deferred maintenance due to tight city budgets. Then the neighbors rallied to "take back the park," Runkel said, and that's when the revitalization work for the 37-acre green space began.

They formed the Roanoke Park Conservancy, and the partnership between this group and the Parks Department was significant because it transformed the park into a popular public space, Flad said. The partnership also helped achieve the neighborhood's long-term vision, especially the new Karnes Playground.

A master plan was developed to guide the park improvements, and to also build upon the positive momentum from the volunteers. The Parks Department project manager met frequently with representatives from the Conservancy to prioritize improvement projects and secure city funding.

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The Picadilly Circle complements the Pegasus and the nature theme of the playground. Berliner Seilfrabrik manufactured Pegasus, Picadilly Circle and another feature at Karnes called the Speedway, a zip line.


"Through these efforts, the park began its re-emergence," Runkel said. "With the transformation came an increased public interest in the park, and as other projects within the park were completed, a new group of neighbors emerged to advocate for the replacement of the existing 20-year old Karnes play structure."

The Karnes Playground Task Force was created in 2013, and then architects from Hufft Projects conducted a workshop and later prepared a series of conceptual sketches. The Kansas City Parks Department collaborated with the Playground Task Force to identify which features from the sketches were feasible, taking safety standards, code requirements, budget and other factors into consideration. The landscape architects also worked closely with ABCreative, Missouri's local source for Berliner Seilfrabrik equipment.

"Several themes that emerged from the workshop included nature play, water, one of a kind, climbing and music," Flad said. "A central mound feature resonated from a sketch and created topography in an otherwise flat area of the park. This became the element the resulting playground was built around. A 'dry pond' feature with sand, boulders, and a small boardwalk was included in the vicinity of a large cottonwood tree."

Community members wanted to incorporate water into the play area, but this presented a challenge. While a variety of concepts and options were evaluated, this ultimately was determined not to be feasible because there were no water lines close to the site.

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Plant Selection




As seen in LASN magazine, March 2017 Playground.






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