Kill Creek Park continues to flourish
Monte Fiegel fell in love with his job before he was named manager of Kill Creek Regional Park two years ago.
"I starting volunteering to come out here eight to 10 years ago, right after we started acquiring the property," he said of the park two miles south of DeSoto. "It looks awesome during all parts of the year."
Fiegel believes the public will share his enthusiasm for the 860-acre park when the Johnson County Park and Recreation District opens it to the public in the late summer or early fall of 2001.
"We'll not be as multi-use as Shawnee Mission or Heritage," Fiegel said of the two current regional parks in the Johnson County system. "We've decided to keep the natural ruggedness of the park intact."
Area nature lovers will be able to enjoy the park's mixed prairie and woodland environment via 1.5 miles of paved trails most of which wends along Kill Creek and unimproved trails that take off over the park's hills.
The park district has spent the better part of the last decade returning the Kill Creek's acreage to its natural environment. Brush has been cleared, and the old agricultural areas are being returned to grassland. The lowland acres are being seeded with native tall grasses, and the uplands planted with indigenous short grasses, he said.
"We're going to seed 20 to 26 varieties of wildflowers," he said. "There are some great vistas people can enjoy all year when the flowers are blooming in the spring and summer, during the summer when the green grass bends in waves and when the foliage turns in the fall."
Care was taken to select plant varieties that provide habitat and food for songbirds, upland game birds and wild turkey, Fiegel said.
The emphasis on the park's natural environment doesn't mean it will be without improvements. The most noteworthy is the 28-acre lake that is slowly filling behind a new dam.
The lake will have a swimming beach, Fiegel said, which will be served by showers and a small concession stand separated by a large shelter.
The park department will start constructing a marina within weeks that will rent small pedal craft and canoes, Fiegel said. The lake will accommodate small sailboats, but powerboats will be limited to trolling motors, he said.
The presence of trolling motors signals fishing, and Fiegel said the lake should become a destination for fisherman.
"We've definitely provided a lot of shelter," he said. "We've already stocked it will flathead minnows. The catfish are coming this week. We will be adding small- and large-mouth bass, walleye, bluegill and crappie."
The lake should open for fisherman in 30 to 36 months, Fiegel said, depending on how quickly the newly stocked fish mature. Planned creel and slot limits will keep catches to fewer but bigger or "trophy" fish, he said.
Eighty acres of the park will be the home of Camp Tender Ridge, Fiegel said. Located near a pond built before the county acquired the property, the camp will offer day-use camping and programs for youth groups and day cares.
All the above improvements are part of the park district's phase I development of Kill Creek. Further amenities and more miles of trails will be added in the future.
Like so many things in the area, the park's future is clouded by developments at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant that abuts the park to the west. The transfer agreement Oz Entertainment Co. negotiated with the federal government calls for the company to donate 1,700 adjoining acres of parkland to the county. However, the park district's land acquisition specialist Bill Maasen said many details of that parkland donation agreement have yet to be worked out.
The National Park Service's has approved the transfer of 2,700 Sunflower acres to the county, but the U.S. General Services Administration, which is charged with disposing Sunflower, has stated it could only provide the county 500 acres of parkland if the Oz deal falls through. The Army would have to sell the rest of the property to pay for the plant's cleanup, the GSA claims.
It will be up to the park district board to decide how much land it wants to acquire should the Oz deal fail, Maasen said. But he assumed the 2,700 acres approved by the National Park Service would provide a starting point for Sunflower donations or acquisitions.
The possibility of adding more land shouldn't detract from what Kill Creek Regional Park will offer when it opens next year, Fiegel said.
"That's all going to work itself out," he said. "There's enough to do right now with what we do have to keep me busy."