Proposed Civil War event raises environmental concerns

? Plans for a Civil War battle re-enactment fundraiser that could draw 10,000 people to a city park next year have raised environmental and other concerns.

The Downtown Rotary Club hopes to stage a re-enactment of the Battle of Westport at Jerry Smith Park, a 360-acre wilderness area in southern Kansas City.

The club hopes to raise $90,000 or more for the Rotary Youth Camp in the suburb of Lee’s Summit, said Debra Shulz, project chairwoman.

The free camp serves mentally and physically challenged youngsters.

But concerns have arisen within Kansas City’s Parks and Recreation Department about the effect of such a large event on native plants in the park and on other wildlife there, such as ground-nesting birds.

Marci Jones, manager of the south region for the parks department, acknowledged the concerns but said she thought the re-enactment could occur with minimal damage.

Richard Coleman, parks department planning director, suggested another nearly 840-acre, largely undeveloped park as an alternative site.

That park is located north of the Missouri River, and Coleman said it offers better highway access and parking.

Shulz said she preferred the first park because it was closer to the demographics her club hoped to draw to the event. But she agreed to consider the northern park.

Shulz said she hoped to get approval for the project from the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners by early June so planning could proceed.

Parks Commissioner Bill Washington said that if the event was to be in Jerry Smith Park, the planners needed to confer early with the park’s neighbors and work with them on any concerns they may have about the event.

“This is not a done deal,” said Mark McHenry, the city’s parks director.