Standing Sentry for Kansas City’s Veterans Memorials

In 2021, Chris Cotten returned to Kansas City, Mo. with 16 years of experience to become Director of Parks, entrusted to stand sentry for the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington Square Park on Pershing Road near the World War I Memorial and museum.

Managing, protecting, and enhancing Kansas City’s parks for the future in the face of tight budgets challenges Cotten and his team. Cotton’s myriad experience includes rebuilding a city’s whole parks system after near total destruction in the 2011 Joplin, Mo. tornado where Cotten had just signed on as parks director. But responsibilities for overseeing 221 parks, 10 community centers, 48 fountains and more than 120 monuments and sculptures in Kansas City is daunting.

Chris Cotten

Addressing park ranger staffing shortages, some $200 million in deferred maintenance and resolving shelter for the homeless camping in parks are top priorities along with recruiting volunteers and private donations to make a real difference improving Kansas City Parks.

Cotten is not a veteran, but the memorials in Kansas City Parks are special – the National World I Memorial entrusted to Kansas City, the Vietnam War Memorial in Mill Creek Park, a World War II Memorial in Anita Gorman Park in Kansas City North, plus the state of Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial in downtown Kansas City.

Cotten’s dad served in the Navy during the Korean War. His granddad served with the 2nd Armored Division in World War II. His son is now on active duty with the Coast Guard.

“Our veterans are special,” Cotten said. “Their service must be honored. I look forward to helping any way that I can as the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial organization begins work to add a significant sculpture in Washington Square Park honoring all who served in that war, especially the 900 Missourians who died in the Korean War.”

Written By: Martha Walker

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