It's hard to escape the Missouri River's influence in Kansas City. Even if you don't live immediately next to its winding banks, it's tough to get around a river that cuts straight through the heart of the metro area. And you've no doubt heard the phrases "north of the river" and "Big Muddy" at least once.
Most everyone who responded to our query through Tell KCUR and who called into KCUR's Central Standard Thursday agreed that the Missouri River is underutilized in Kansas City. Juliana Larocc from the Northland said that Kansas City needs to look to its regional neighbors for some inspiration.
"I think KC has neglected the river's value as a 'view' for restaurants, shops, etc., as St. Louis, Oklahoma City and other cities do," Larocc said. "I would like to see it healthy and useful. I do hope we being to develop its banks, especially on the west side of the Christopher Bond Bridge."
James Haake with Kansas City's Department of Planning and Development said he wants to see industry and regular citizens use the river more.
"I grew up in St. Louis and was always fascinated by the amount of barges going up and down the river," Haake said. "Years ago I worked at the Livestock Exchange building in the West Bottoms and the KU crew team stored their rowing equipment and had a dock on the Kansas River. I thought that was the coolest thing."
Others suggested that Kansas City look to San Antonio's River Walk to expand commerce and trails along the river. Rick Oswald from the Fairfax/Langdon area of Missouri farms in the floodplain and said he'd like to see a mix of agricultural and commercial development.
"Development of recreation really should take place nearer or in urban areas because that's where the greatest number of people are," Oswald said. "As our population grows, fertile areas like the Missouri River Valley will become more important for food production. This is one of the least costly areas for irrigation in the world."
Several others agreed that recreational activities are another area where improvement is needed. Chantilly Lovelace from Kansas City, Missouri hopes that can be done while still remaining environmentally friendly.
"I would like to see the excursion paddle boats return," Lovelace said. "[The river should be] more of a destination for environmentally friendly recreation — more green space with bike/walk paths, picnic areas."
Lovelace would also like to see a bigger focus on the history of the river, which once acted as a boon for trade in Kansas City's early years.
"I would love to see something that highlighted the history of the river and the steam dredges that traveled it," Lovelace said. "I would like the river to be a destination for children and adults, with outbuildings with video presentations."
"Helical turbines are being used out on the coasts in areas to take advantage of wave movement," Bill said. "They catch the movement of the water, rotate in circles, and then generate electricity. It'd be hydro-powered but wouldn't require a dam."
This post is part of KCUR's series 30/30 Vision, in which we examine Kansas City's past to reimagine its future.