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Central Standard

Kansas City's Northland Boundaries Are As Muddy As The Missouri River

Alyson Raletz

The Northland. Kansas City north. Northtown (also spelled Northtowne in some cases.)

Whatever you call the part of the Kansas City metropolitan area north of the Missouri River, we wanted to know more about its boundaries. But the answer is a little muddy.

The question is a key part of our exploration of life north of the river in KCUR's Beyond Our Borders series.

We wondered how far north and west of Kansas City you can go before you leave what Kansas Citians know as the Northland. Do you include cities as far out as Weston and Kearney?

The answer is yes and no — depending on who you ask.

Amy Neal, managing editor of three Northland newspapers — the Liberty Tribune, The Kearney Courier and Gladstone Dispatch — doesn't include Weston in her definition of the Northland. 

"I think in the most general terms, it is Clay and Platte counties, maybe not the entire — the northern most parts of those counties, but in general, Platte and Clay County," Neal told Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann last week during a discussion on crossing the Missouri River.

Neal added, "I suppose once it stops being suburban and starts being more rural, that would be a good place where it starts to become you're driving through countryside. Although there are pockets of country in the Northland, even within Kansas City proper."

Deb Hermann, CEO of Northland Neighborhoods Inc., agreed with Neal on defining the Northland broadly as anything within Clay and Platte counties. But she said she also was unsure whether to include Weston or Kearney in the Northland, even though they fit within those boundaries.

"I think that there are ... the individual communities in the Northland are pretty well defined," Hermann said.

Parkville isn't the same as Liberty, Hermann said. They each have their unique downtowns, their unique parks and unique attractions.

"So I think that there is a lot of difference there, but there is this, I guess, unifying feel — 'We're from the Northland, we're from up north,'" she said. "For you, you may think of it as crossing the river and I just think of it as staying put. There is this unification that we aren't south of the river."

Bill Skaggs, a former member of the Kansas City Council and Missouri state representative, said he sees the Northland's northern boundary as Missouri Highway 92, which runs from Platte City to Kearney.

"That's the northern city limits of Kansas City and while Deb and I  were on the council, we kept Kansas City from expanding north of 92 Highway," said Skaggs, who called into the talk show.

"When Kansas City (started) annexing north of the river — I think it was in the '50s — and communities like North Kansas City, Parkville and Gladstone and Liberty, had they expanded at that time, we wouldn't have a Kansas City north today. For some reason or another, those city leaders didn't expand their cities out and so Kansas City jumped around and started annexing the areas that go, like I say, today to 92 Highway."

What's your definition of Kansas City's Northland? Tell us in the comments.

This look at the Missouri River is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them.

A California native, Briana comes to KCUR by way of KMUW in Wichita, Kan. and KUSP in Santa Cruz, Calif.