April 26, 2021|By The Marlborough Community Coalition

The Marlborough Community Coalition (MCC) is an association of engaged residents, businesses, and partners volunteering their time to promote a healthy, sustainable, and vibrant community. The Conservation Fund is proud to have partnered with MCC on fulfilling the community’s vision for the greenspace at 82nd Street and Troost Avenue. We recently checked in with two of MCC’s leaders, Diane Hershberger and Jeff Primos, to learn more about their organization.

4 26 21 Catalyst Center Ribbon CuttingCelebrating the opening of Marlborough Community Coalition’s Catalyst Center in 2020. Photo by Ginny Moore.

Diane Hershberger 
has lived in the neighborhood for 26 years and is one of MCC’s founding leaders. She is currently MCC’s Healthy Community Program Director.

“Together, we are Marlborough.” That is our motto at the Marlborough Community Coalition. We utilize housing, greenspace, and the arts as core revitalization approaches, and also advocate for equitable treatment and resources.

In the past, each of the five historic neighborhoods that comprise the overall community of Marlborough had their own association; some were originally formed in the 1960s and 1970s to counteract practices of redlining in the city. These individual neighborhood groups had very few activities or were totally dissolved by the early 2000s, leaving Marlborough residents without a clear avenue to voice their concerns and hopes for their community.

That all changed in 2008, when the city’s plan to quietly close the Marlborough Community Center was challenged by a small group of concerned citizens from all five neighborhoods. I was part of that group that banded together to successfully prevent the closure of the Community Center, which was our only real public gathering space. More than that, we got the City’s attention—really the first attention to our neighborhood at all. We then officially incorporated our organization in 2009 as the Marlborough Community Coalition.

4 26 21 Marlborough Coalition Board of Directors Celebrating a Successful Youth Arts Festival June 2019Diane Hershberger (standing, first from left) joined by members of the Marlborough Community Coalition Board of Directors celebrating a successful Youth Arts Festival in June 2019. Photo courtesy Marlborough Community Coalition.

Over the last decade, that first accomplishment has opened the door for more visibility and victories. The City has invested millions in storm water, street and sidewalk infrastructure in Marlborough. This includes green infrastructure at three sites that were originally designed only to address major flooding and water quality issues in the community, but with the help of Marlborough Community Coalition and other partners, these sites can now provide that important flood control function and so much more.

4 26 21 Marlborough Park parks with purpose c Ivan LaBianca202009170 4Water retention systems in the foreground are visually attractive open space, while the playground beyond is an amazing place for kids to let loose. Photo by Ivan LaBianca.

These green infrastructure sites—Rachel Morado Garden, Arleta Park, and the 82nd and Troost site—provide both large-scale storm water retention and a place to enjoy nature in a park-like setting, complete with native plants, walking paths, and in the case of the 82nd and Troost site, a playground with a zip-line. Connecting these greenspaces are more than two miles of sidewalks and paths named the Greenwalk that are part of Marlborough Community Coalition’s initiative to bring livable streets to the community.

4 26 21 Marlborough Greenwalk Map BROCHUREThis map depicts the boundaries of the overall Marlborough community, the five historic neighborhoods, as well as the parks and greenspaces that are connected by the Greenwalk (shown, appropriately, in green).

Jeff Primos 
was born and raised in Marlborough, and when he moved back three years ago with his family he noticed many good things happening in his community. Looking to get more involved with the positive momentum, he joined MCC and is now the organization’s President.

Some of my best memories growing up in Marlborough are of playing baseball in the parking lots around town. There was not a lot of park space back then; it was mainly parking lots and you’d play wherever you could find empty space. It is good to actually have greenspace now where kids can play. Hopefully having all these greenspaces connected and fixing up other areas will spur interest and pride in our community and bring a better quality of life to those that live here. Our larger vision is to make this a walkable community that is healthy, vibrant, and a place where you’d want to raise your family. Plain and simple.

4 26 21 Jeff Primos at neighborhood clean up check in with CW PS and his daughterKansas City 5th District Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, Jeff Primos, and Jeff’s daughter Neema Primos at neighborhood clean-up event.

The investment in this community has certainly been put to good use during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has demonstrated the benefits of having access to nature and safe places to play and explore outdoors. The walking trails and playground at the Troost greenspace have been continually used by families and small groups during the pandemic. What a great thing to have during COVID, when people can’t go anywhere else, they can actually just walk around the neighborhood and go to these great parks. It was a really great experience to drive down Troost the other day and see the park full of kids zip-lining and playing. I look at that space and really see that its impact will start to make the community more family centered.

4 26 21 Marlborough Park parks with purpose c Ivan LaBianca202009179 1Kids zooming along on the zipline at the playground at 82nd and Troost. Photo by Ivan LaBianca.

The Troost greenspace’s location presents itself like a “front door” to the Marlborough community, and the Marlborough Community Coalition partnered with The Conservation FundHeartland Conservation Alliance, U-Haul, the City of Kansas City, and other local stakeholders to seize the opportunity to make it the best it could be.

Partnerships allowed us to actually bring this dream to fruition. Without partners we wouldn’t have been able to finish the project to the level that we wanted. For example, when we hit a roadblock, partnering with The Conservation Fund and their Parks with Purpose program helped us get through and we were able to get this playground and make this a beautiful space with direct support to add benches, trees and plants. It is a feather in the cap of Marlborough that everybody loves. We are appreciative of The Conservation Fund’s long-term commitment to the park and to Marlborough.

Working in partnership with the Heartland Conservation Alliance, residents are being trained on how to maintain the green infrastructure at the park. Plans to increase onsite programming are also in the works, which is important because programming brings both benefits of the programs themselves, as well as generating positive activity to help deter crime on the bordering streets.

And thanks to a grant from the Health Forward Foundation, the Coalition is reaching out to people who live in the roughly 1,100 homes along the Greenwalk to develop “Block Ambassadors” who will keep their eye on things happening in their small part of the community.

4 26 21 Marlborough Rising MuralPhoto courtesy Marlborough Community Coalition.

I want the Coalition to continue to get more engaged and connected with the community in order to bring in more passionate folks who can become leaders to advocate for the community. One of the biggest things that I’ve learned through this process is if your community doesn’t have a seat at the table, it’s hard to get investment in your community from the city, or the government, or whomever that may be. So far, the Coalition has done an excellent job in advocating and the City knows who we are. I’m really proud that I have been a part of some of these recent changes and efforts. We are looking forward to seeing what else we can continue to build.

Find Out More

Green Stormwater Infrastructure
The City of Kansas City, Missouri is using green stormwater infrastructure technologies to manage stormwater by mimicking natural processes that slow and absorb runoff. Learn why urban flooding is a problem, and the green infrastructure solutions that combat it.

The Greenspace at 82nd Street and Troost
This greenspace designed around a wetland basin built by the city to capture stormwater now includes a community gathering space, fun and creative playground amenities, a walking trail, recreational areas and native gardens, all designed with extensive input from the Marlborough community.

Bringing a Kansas City Community Together Through Parks by Ginny Moore

Written By

The Marlborough Community Coalition

The Marlborough Community Coalition is a non-profit association of residents, businesses and partners working to ensure this diverse and historic neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri is vibrant, healthy and sustainable.