Archive for Thursday, December 21, 2006

West Bottoms park could go fast tracked

December 21, 2006

De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle is proposing the city develop a plan to convert property near the new boat ramp into a park as a way to enhance the chances of obtaining grant funding for that project.

Guilfoyle said the city has identified a possible source of grant funding to help develop the park. The city purchased the 36 acres three years ago for $60,000. As of now, the only improvement to the property is the boat ramp to the Kansas River completed last summer.

The city would be in better position to approach the grant source if it had a plan for the park's development and a cost estimate, Guilfoyle said.

"Before we have applied for anything, we want to make sure we can put in an application what we want to do and what it's going to cost," he said.

Two years ago, De Soto Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Doug Pickert, a landscape architect, drew up plans to develop the property, but it has not been endorsed by the park commission, De Soto Planning Commission or city council.

Guilfoyle proposes an eight-member committee of two park board members, two planning commissioners, two council members and two at-large residents meet in January to reach consensus on what the park's primary uses and activities should be. The committee would use Pickert's plan, which included RV and traditional camping areas, hiking trails and the boat ramp.

In an attempt to fast track planning, Guilfoyle suggests a planner be asked to develop a specific park decision from the committee's agreed upon concept plan.

The goal would be to approach the grant source and, hopefully, develop some of the plan's major components in the next year or two, Guilfoyle wrote in a report to the council.

Guilfoyle said the park board last week enthusiastically supported his plan.

Earlier this year, the park board completed a park master plan that included a priority list of projects. The boat ramp park improvements weren't among the top-five priorities, but park board members understand the opportunity to secure grant funding for improvements needed to be embraced, Guilfoyle said.

Although it will be in Miller Park in 2007, the De Soto Chamber of Commerce wants to have the barbecue contest it inherited from Darrel Zimmerman at the boat ramp park. In addition, incoming Chamber President Dave Moore said he would like to combine the barbecue contest with the blues concert that proved to be a success for the Chamber this year.

The riverfront property is down the slope from the Reike Lake property Johnson County Parks and Recreation District purchased in 2003. A master plan of that park's development was originally penciled in for this year's capital improvement plan. But a change in priorities has delayed planning for the property, Johnson County Parks and Recreation District planner Bill Maasen said.

"We've kind of gone through our 2007 CIP, and it didn't make the list either," he said. "There's a chance it could happen in 2008, but I wouldn't want to say it will happen in 2008."

County commissioners are telling the park district they would rather see existing facilities improved before new projects are developed, Maasen said. The district spent $1 million installing new sewers and replacing old ones in parks this year and will spend $400,000 replacing antiquated water lines in 2007, he said.

Commissioners understand improvements to existing parks doesn't come with new operating costs, which will be the case when the Reike Lake park opens, Maasen said. But the park district bought the property west of De Soto with the intention of making it available to the public and Maasen said he foresaw that happening sooner than later.

"I don't see it as a 10-year thing," he said. "It's a ready-made park. The largest single cost to develop a property at that site is to build a lake and that's done."

The park district will complete one project in De Soto next year. Maasen said an overlook of Kill Creek on Lexington northeast of Lexington Plaza would be constructed next spring. The overlook will have benches and a sign explaining the use Native Americans and pioneers made of a tree grove and rock outcropping on a nearby bend on Kill Creek.

"We didn't get it done this year," he said. "We ran out of money. It will get done next year."

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