KANSAS CITY — The group that runs the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City wants to encircle the memorial grounds with fence as part of a security upgrade to protect the monument and National World War I Museum. But some Park Department officials don't think it's a good idea to limit access to a public park.
"We don't fence parks," said Park Commissioner Angie Stackhaus. "I'm vehemently opposed to a fence. It violates (the original) design, and it's just not necessary.
The Liberty Memorial is a national historic landmark that sits on 47.5 acres of land across from Union Station and is home to the World War I Museum. Memorial officials say a fence would help keep out undesirable activity such as vandalism and sexual encounters at the park. They also say that the memorial is a potential terrorist target because of its symbolism.
That notion gets scoffs from some park officials who say that if someone wants to terrorize the monument, a fence isn't going to do anything to keep that from happening.
"They have a misperception of what they're going to achieve with a fence," said Park Commissioner Meg Conger.
The private Liberty Memorial Association manages the public property and owns the artifacts in the museum. The park board has authority over the buildings and grounds.
Memorial officials want to add the fence, cameras and improved lighting as part of a $1.4 million security project. The money is available from the same tax increment financing district that includes the new Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City just south of the memorial.
While he wants to keep the memorial accessible, Liberty Memorial CEO Brian Alexander said with limited staff, it's important to have more control.
But historical integrity also is important, especially to the Kessler Society, named for George Kessler, the original architect of the Kansas City parks and boulevard system.
"There were never any plans for a fence around it," said Dona Boley, a Kessler Society board member. "The Liberty Memorial was open. It's a public park."
Liberty Memorial Association Chairman Tim Kristl said there are precedents in the city for putting fences around public parks. He said if one were put up at the memorial, it would be "as innocuous as possible."
Sandra Aust, chairwoman of the memorial's grounds committee, said she doesn't like fences in general but thinks the city needs to be realistic.
"We have a wonderful asset that we've invested more than $100 million in preserving and enhancing," she said. "We have a responsibility to look at what we need to do to make sure it is secure and protected."