Archive for Thursday, August 24, 2006

Trails network offer to make De Soto unique

August 24, 2006

The Johnson County Parks and Recreation District is working to extend Kill Creek Streamway Park another 1.3 miles south of 95th Street at the same time it's preparing to place an historical overlook on Lexington Avenue next to Kill Creek.

The second of the two amenities is a wonderful gesture just in time for De Soto's sesquicentennial. Credit for the overlook should be given Darrel Zimmerman, who has been pushing the historical signage for more than a year. But the park district should be thanked for going to the time and expense of developing an attractive way to present them. Park district officials could have spared themselves the expense by simply placing a couple of sign placards at the site.

The extension of the streamway is part of a number of park improvements that should make De Soto and northwest Johnson County a special place. When it is completed, De Soto residents will be able to walk or bike from the Kansas River, through the length of De Soto to within the boundaries of the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.

That will be a route of more than three miles and a roundtrip excursion would be a nice workout even for the fit.

But it is only the start. The park district plans to extend the streamway trail to Kill Creek Park and its walking trails by 2008 and eventually further to the south, where it will link to a network of trails spanning the county.

What will make De Soto unique in this network is the trails will link to larger green space. This could start with the horseshoe of 2,000 acres of parkland that will surround Sunflower to the east, south and west. And that connects to De Soto's little-used Wilderness Park on the western side of the plant.

Should Sunflower Redevelopment LLC dispose of the section of railroad tracks south of the spur that serves Huhtamaki Americas and Rehrig Pacific, we would propose it makes a natural extension to the Kill Creek Streamway Park.

There is also the Rieke Lake property the county purchased on De Soto's western border. It is said to be laced with a number of natural wildlife trails along its timbered plains and Kansas River bluff, which would make wonderful walking trails.

The city intends to put trails in the property it owns at the old West Bottoms sand pit that is now home to the city boat ramp. It is also the wish of city officials to tie that property to Miller Park with a riverfront trail.

The Reike Lake property could be tied to the old sand pit now owned by the city and home of its new boat ramp along the creek that runs at the bottom of the bluffs.

All of this may sound ambitious, but trails are relatively cheap park enhancements, especially if land purchases aren't needed either because government entities own the land or a developer recognizes the benefit of donating marginal property, which often makes great trails.

Should everything planned come together, De Soto residents can look forward to easy walks to any number of open green spaces in the near future. It should be a marketing plus for the city few cities its size can duplicate.

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