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Park board trying to make Richmond greener

Bill Purcell has a Lee’s Summit vision he wants to make a Richmond reality.
During a business trip to the Kansas City suburb, Purcell, vice president of the Richmond Parks Board, had a chance to observe the city’s resource recovery park: a hybrid facility consisting of a compost park and recycling center. Its convenient location in the heart of the city and the efficiency, according to Purcell, to possibly start up on around $90,000 and be managed and administered by one person.
To Purcell, the possibilities look endless.
“This can actually lead to degrees that can be issued by vocational-technical schools and community colleges,” Purcell said of recycling and reduction facilities such as the Lee’s Summit one. “Kids can look forward to getting degrees and working for cities like this and working on environmental impact.”
To Richmond Parks Board member Mark Sowder, it might be one giant leap for Richmond.
“With the whole green thing, we could actually be out ahead on something,” Sowder said.
It’s still something that is just being discussed, but to all who have joined the conversation, it has seemed worth discussing.
It’s a giant leap that ironically seems like another in a series of small environmental steps for Richmond. Purcell said the city has taken steps before toward providing recycling services, such as a few recycling containers at Southview Park and the recycling efforts of Ideal Industries. But this is something for which Purcell feels the rewards are worth the due diligence.
Lee’s Summit’s facility is the result of help from an environmental specialist’s recommendations, Purcell said. Kara Taylor, environmental program coordinator for the city of Lee’s Summit, said good planning in the ‘90s, when the park began, has led to a catch-all facility meeting most waste disposal needs. “It’s a diversionary method to keep recyclable products out of the landfill,” Taylor said.
The north part of the Lee’s Summit park is devoted to “resource recovery,” which includes separated divisions for rock crushing, shingles, compost, hazardous waste, electronics and recyclables. The city’s portion of tipping fees for the local landfill staffs the park for approximately 13-15 positions, Taylor said, and covers all services. That helps the city avoid dipping into the general fund to keep the facilities in operation.
All the same, the facility lacks the presence of a dump. Taylor stressed the importance of keeping the road to the facility as friendly and non-abrasive to patron vehicles as possible.
“They prefer a dust-free surface,” Taylor said. “Big trucks travel on all different surfaces, whether it’s a trash truck or a roll-off truck. Your biggest complaints aren’t going to be from haulers. Your patrons are going to make your facility.”
From what Purcell’s perspective has been worth, it’s a mission accomplished. He’s a believer that with the sale of compost and mulch, at least some of Richmond park’s services could be self-funding.
“This kind of takes the whole concept of recycling and puts it into a useful and purposeful item,” Purcell said. “The Lee’s Summit park looks like you’re driving into a park. It looks green.”
Rick Eiler, manager of Richmond’s compost site, is on board that it sounds like a good idea – but that same principle of organization that’s essential to the Lee’s Summit park needs to first be mastered at the existing compost site, which Purcell has suggested could hypothetically be a good site for such a park in Richmond.
Currently, his priorities stay close to better informing the public about the services the compost site offers. Right now, that includes getting across to patrons the difference between “compost” and “mulch” – the latter keeps weeds at bay and is more of a decoration around plants, gardens and trees; the former is a soil additive with some nutrient value – and making sure all patrons are aware of differences in fees for Richmond residents and non-residents.
There’s also the issue of, before he can handle effectively separating recyclables, ensuring the quality of the mulch and compost products he already supplies. He still sees big advantages to local recycling.
“The only real problem we have now with the compost and mulch we have right now is trash,” Eiler said, adding he just finished a recent clean-up to pick trash out of materials he receives from patrons. “Whatever you put into your compost pile, it’s going to come back to you. The one thing I want to tell people is, it’s not a dump out there.”
It sounds a lot like the diversionary principle behind setting up a park in the first place.
Purcell wants one thing known above all: this isn’t about a “green” fad.
“Some people have a fear that (recycling) is some radical departure from the way we live,” Purcell said. “It’s just being good stewards of God’s Earth.”

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