City hosts block party to provide green space for neighborhood

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COLUMBIA - A neighborhood block party the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department will host Saturday aims to bring the neighborhood near the intersection of Whitegate Drive and Towne Drive. 

The Parks Department, Missouri Care, and Columbia Insurance Group are co-sponsoring the event from 2-4 pm at the park property near the intersection. 

The department bought the land in January 2018.

"We're definitely happy to acquire that green space. We're hoping in the coming years it can turn into a park," Camren Cross, recreation supervisor of Parks and Recreation, said. "Over there those kids just don't have a place to go. Those families don't have a shaded place to gather and just be families."

Cross said the block parties are something for which the neighbors have asked.

"They've wanted somewhere where neighbors can come meet neighbors," Cross said. "We wanted to bring some activity out that way."

The city has thrown similar block parties before. Various groups have thrown parties in the Whitegate green space in the past, including Parks and Recreation last year. 

Mike Griggs, director of Parks and Recreation, told KOMU last year that the city has strategic plans to lessen crime and bring residents together in the four neighborhoods where the block parties are hosted.

Griggs said the city chose those neighborhoods based on the diverse population within each area.

There have been some changes to this year's block party at Whitegate after the department spent time talking to the neighborhood about what it wants to see.

"That one last year had a job fair component to it. It was not as well attended as we would have liked," Cross said. "We get the feeling this one is going to be a lot better. We've tapped into some contacts out there, so we think it's going to be very well attended."

This year's activities include free food, live music by DJ Annette Driver, Gerry Tritz of the Mid MO Magic Show, inflatables, balloons, face painting and lawn games. 

The community vendors include the Central Missouri Humane Society, Rainbow House, Daniel Boone Regional Library, Columbia Police Dept., Boone County Democrats, Parentlink, the Office of Sustainability, Job Point, Cover Missouri Coalition, United Community Builders and Student Transport of America.