Since June of 2000, the Blind Boone Park Renovation Group has worked to renovate Blind Boone Park in Warrensburg, Missouri. Full-time volunteer Sandra Irle, along with her husband, Mark, founded the group. Originally built during segregation for the black community, it is being renovated as a community park with a sensory walkway for the visually impaired. More than 1,500 volunteers from all walks of life have worked to make the once neglected spot no longer a place to keep people separated, but it is now a place that brings people together.
The park is in an area in the older section of town. This portion was once looked down upon. However, because the project is in the “Historic District” and is mentioned in the State Tourism guides new attention is being paid to this once desolate area. As a result of this project, other historic buildings are being saved and there is a revitalization occurring. There are new apartments replacing antiquated dwellings and a renewed pride of ownership in the community.
Mrs. Irle and her group are often referred to as the Blind Boone Park Family because of their closeness. Many new relationships have come out of the volunteer opportunities. This project has crossed all barriers by inviting volunteers to express themselves in a healthy manner. Those who come to work pick an activity that best suits them. They can plant flowers as well as aiding in building a gazebo. As a result of the renovated park, the Blind Boone Music & Arts Festival was born out of a continued desire to bring people together. That will soon celebrate its fourth annual festival with more than 100 volunteers working the event each year.
The impact of this project is wide reaching. The area of town in which the park is located has a renewed feeling of inclusion and pride with improvements and respect to historic sites. The support from the City Council, Parks Department, area civic organizations, schools and churches shows the new sense of community that Mrs. Irle has fostered. In addition, tourism has flourished with area, regional and national recognition for the park and town.
Mrs. Irle and her team of volunteers have worked for more than four years in activities associated with building the park and raising the money to keep it maintained. The Group has the annual music festival, ongoing volunteer projects and educational school trips, seasonal events in the park, annual children’s garden project, music mentoring project, walk for health path, church services and other events.
The Blind Boone Park Renovation Group has crossed all barriers by gentle but persistent invitation to be included in something that has caused only good feelings. Friendships and bonds have been formed and now replace animosity and fear. This has been an accidental education and renewal process that has occurred naturally as a result of restoring the park. What began as a “park project” has become so much more to the town and each of the volunteers as well as the community-at-large.