SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) - The northside of Springfield can get a bad rap, but the City of Springfield is working with neighborhood associations to fix this. $400,000 of your taxpayer money is going to make parks safer. ($100,000 thousand of your taxpayer money is being held in reserve for projects like these.)
Right now there are not any lights inside this pavilion at Tom Watkins Park. The Tom Watkins Neighborhood Association President, Marti Mowery, said she has seen homeless people camp tents here at night, but new lights your taxpayer money will provide could change that.
“Where it's more well-lit, we have less of the homeless just pitching a tent. In the dark, we've had situations where I’ve had to call the police,” Mowery said.
At Tom Watkins Park, Marti Mowery wants children and families to feel safe again day and night.
"We have lights that come on when they want to. They're set on a timer, but because of the older system they come and go so we have dark spots in our park. We've had homeless in our park sleeping," Mowery stated.
She pointed out where they usually rest.
"Usually all up around there with our trees," Mowery said.
Neighbors said it is also happening at Grant Beach Park.
"There have been large number of homeless peoples coming and spending the evenings in there. Most of the residents will definitely tell your kids when it's getting close to dark: no you're not going to be there," said Grant Beach resident, Ken Bash.
KSPR News crews saw what appeared to be homeless people there Wednesday.
"I think most people are somewhat annoyed and or scared and that most kids are out of there by the time it starts to get dark," Bash stated.
New lights are supposed to be installed at both parks. For Mowery, this has been a long time in coming.
"We are getting some long overdue improvements. Almost ten years’ worth that we've been on them," Mowery continued.
City workers said this would not be possible without communications from neighborhood association presidents like Mowery.
"It's critical. We as a city don't want to be doing projects that the neighborhoods don't want to see or they don't think is an improvement. We want them to support us as much as we want to support them," said City of Springfield Transportation Planner, Dawne Gardner.
After ten years of waiting, Mowery cannot wait to get started.
"We never thought this day would come and now it's here. We're just excited to move forward," Mowery said
She hopes this will raise north side pride.
“We just have to give the people things that will make them proud of where they're from," finished Mowery.
Mowery said it does not take much rain to flood this park. Part of this city money will go toward improving drainage by the community center. That is something else she's excited about.
So how is this getting paid for? Remember the quarter cent sales tax Springfield voters approved last year? That is paying for these projects.
This is a statement from the Grant Beach Neighborhood Association President, Anita Kuhns:
"As president of Grant Beach Neighborhood Association for the past three years , it has been a pleasure being a part of the NAC (Neighborhood Advisory Council). The money set aside, through taxes, will go a long way to help neighborhoods. It's wonderful that, as neighborhoods, we can have a say where we feel improvements are needed in the neighborhood we live in. Grant Beach actually had a committee of about 5 people to decide on where improvements could be made. Since we do have many activities in the park at Grant Beach, it was decided to go with park improvements as it would benefit the neighborhood as a whole. We would have benefited with another parking lot so we could actually have neighborhood cleanups at the park and to have parking for the pool and the school adjacent to the park, instead of having parking in the green space. But that was going to put us way over the hundred thousand dollar limit. Instead GBNA wrote the Proposal for lighting and electrical upgrades in the park for safety reasons. "