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The Blue River can be to Kansas City, what oil is to Alaska. An Asset!

By Carl Stafford

Photo by Lara Isch

The Blue River is a 'natural resource', and as an Artist who wants to use the Arts and nature to address environmental and social injustices, my relationship with the Blue River could not have come at a better time. My name is Carl Stafford, born and raised on the west side of District 5 (where Swope Park is) in Kansas City, Mo., the Blue River runs right through my neighborhood (Gregory Ridge Neighborhood). Thankfully the neighborhoods sits-up high enough to not be flooded by the Blue River's rising waters during heavy rains.

Being the founder and visionary of MY REGION WINS! (MRW!), a nonprofit organization whose mission is 'to transcend everyday challenges' by using the Arts to nurture creative & undeveloped ideas that shape society. Understanding and appreciating the value of the Blue River came when Heartland Conservation Alliance (HCA) partnered with MRW! on a 100-year plan to revive the west side of District 5, called 'From blight to BOON!' (An Artistic Journey). We identified the points where the Blue River flows north into the west side of District 5 starting at 9911 Blue Ridge Rd. (property owned by Jackson County), and exits the west side of District 5 at 5113 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd (property owned by City of Kansas City).

But how would the Blue River be used as an asset? We harvest and distill it. Well not it, but rather the rainwater. In the state of Missouri it is encouraged to collect rainwater as found on the World Population Review site (click here). MY REGION WINS! has a vision to build a Water Ranch at 4602 E 75th St. (property owned by the City of Kansas City/Water Services Dept.) and use the two above locations as extensions to the Water Ranch. With 3 locations harvesting and distilling rainwater along the Blue River, attention will be brought to the Blue River. Guest of the Water Ranch and the two extensions will be invited to see the Blue River up close, learn about the process of harvesting and distilling rainwater, and begin to incorporate these practices into their everyday lives.

The Water Ranch will have converted shipping containers, Ferro cement water tanks, elevated water tanks, cisterns, industrial water filters, and rain barrels. Native plants, trees, trails, Art exhibitions, and recreation can all happen at the Water Ranch. Visitors will be able to spend the day at the ranch, learning about native plants, partaking in activities, volunteering, purchase rain barrels and native plants, and schedule to have a ferro cement water tank created and native plants planted on their property . Water collected at the Water Ranch will be used by visitors and to water the native plants planted on city right of ways, this would be to help address storm water runoff. It is important we learn how to best use and benefit from our natural resources. Butler County, Iowa is 321 miles (4 hr, 44 min drive) north and as of August 5th 2021 is in a D3 extreme drought area (resource found here). Being able to distribute Blue River water to them and other areas within a 500 mile radius of the west side of District 5 who are in a drought is what we are shooting for.

Turning the Blue River into an asset through community-run, immersive and sustainable projects will generate revenue that can be used to strengthen the 40 neighborhoods on the west side of District 5. Compensating residents for taking on roles (over 40 'Officer Titles' can be held in a neighborhood) to better their neighborhood and ultimately giving ever household (possibly resident) a stipend for living on the west side of District 5. My vision is to increase neighborhood wealth through a reconnection with the Blue River and all of it's assets. If Alaska can do it why can't we?

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