Dueling visions for the future of tiny Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita emerged from an often-contentious public comment meeting that drew a standing-room-only crowd Thursday night.
The 1-acre park on the southeast corner of Douglas and St. Francis is controversial because it is a gathering space for homeless people, and Wichita City Council member Janet Miller said at the meeting that she regularly hears from people who don’t feel safe at the park because of that.
Thursday’s gathering provided a stage for people who want a revitalized park to remain a refuge for the homeless — and also those who want a space that appeals instead to the young professionals and tourists who are increasingly filling downtown Wichita.
“Magic happened here tonight,” said Thomas Balsley of SWA/Balsley Landscape Architects, the company the City Council hired last week to redesign the park.
Balsley said he was pleased to see so many people come and offer their opinions, words echoed later by City Council member Lavonta Williams.
The session was designed to gather input from the…