My neighborhood

By Ryann Kuykendall

A few months ago, several young oak trees and four ancient pine trees were cut down to make room for more parking on Rockhurst Road. This month a giant oak tree and two cherry blossom trees were cut down for a parking lot. Rockhurst Road, for those who may not know, is perpendicular to Troost Avenue.

My family and I live in the Rockhurst neighborhood. Coming out of our home after the first cuttings, my eleven-year-old son lamented his lost trees by remembering the birds and forever-scampering squirrels he used to watch. Instead of trees, stumps were covered with yellow sawdust. My son and I were saddened.

Some area representatives may think that when the neighborhood held prayer vigils and lit candles for trees that it was a useless and silly thing to do. This is much more than about parking lots and candles. This is about a neighborhood. A neighborhood I have lived in for almost 12 years, a neighborhood with a long and rich tapestry. When I tell people where I live, east of Troost Avenue, there is either a respect for the history or a stunned look. Often I am asked, “Has anything ever happened to you?” The answer is no. Why am I repeatedly asked this? Why are so many people scared of a street?

Before it was a paved road, it was a Native American hunting path. Later it was named after Dr. Benoist Troost, the first resident medical doctor and an immigrant from Holland. This is partly why the namesake flower of the project Tulips on Troost was chosen by the organizer, Durwin Rice. Rice, along with support from Home Depot, AT&T, Radio Disney, the Junior League of Kansas City and many gardeners planted 70, 000 tulips along Troost with plans to expand the number to 1 million.

In the late 1940s, my mother and her family lived on Michigan Avenue. She loves to tell her childhood stories of days spent running and playing hide-in-go-seek. Often during the summer she would play into the evening along the Paseo. Then in the 1950s due to zoning, my grandparents became a part of what is known by some in this area as “The Great White Flight.” They built a home at 113th and Wornall and there they stayed. Shortly after this time, crime rose in their old neighborhood. The name Troost became synonymous with danger because of riots during the 60s and drugs and related crimes of the 70s and 80s. In a twist of irony, Troost is Dutch for “holy spirit.”

I originally moved to the neighborhood to attend Rockhurst University. It was a wonderful time of learning how to learn. My time as a young student shaped me and helped me become a more understanding person. Part of my education was living in this area. I wouldn’t change a thing.

For many Troost is still a dividing line between two worlds. Broadcaster Walt Bodine calls it the “Berlin Wall of Kansas City.” But I see that line blurring. New businesses and artists are moving to the neighborhood. My neighbors are white, black, lawyers, doctors, architects, secretaries, janitors, students, elderly and young. They walk their dogs and wave as they walk by in the morning. Thank goodness they did hold prayer vigils for the trees. Thank goodness they did light candles for the trees. They gave me another reason to say, “No, I have never been mugged coming home. My neighbors are prayerful tree huggers.”


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