Archive for Thursday, June 28, 2007

River front park to be De Soto Days home

June 28, 2007

The De Soto City Council gave landscape architect Doug Pickert the go ahead to refine a plan for Kaw River Front Park with the expectation it would be the future home of the annual De Soto Days Festival.

The direction came after the council viewed last Thursday three design concepts for the park on 36 West Bottoms' acres that straddle 79th Street. The site already is home to the Kansas River boat ramp.

All designs included three key features: a recreational vehicle campsite, festival grounds, and traditional park area with playgrounds, shelters and picnic tables. Among the park's other features would be paved and gravel overflow parking, a 120-foot diameter sand play area, tent camping area, walking trails and preserved wetlands.

The concepts assume the West Bottoms' site would be the home of future De Soto Days Festivals. The city also has agreed to allow the De Soto Chamber of Commerce to have a fall 2008 barbecue contest at the park in conjunction with a blues and barbecue fundraiser.

Although she didn't disagree with that plan to relocate De Soto Days, Councilwoman Mitra Templin asked if it was really the intention to move the festival to the new park.

"We're running out of space in the (Miller) park," Mayor Dave Anderson said. "It's been a problem for a number of years.

"Moving it would give De Soto Days a chance to expand."

Pickert said each of his three plans would accommodate festival crowds and provide enough parking for at least 2,000 people. Each design incorporated a stage and space for vendor stalls.

In sharing the three concepts, Pickert said he didn't expect the council to give one plan its stamp of approval. Rather, the concepts were meant to stimulate discussion on how the key elements might be placed to arrive at "the highest and best use" of the site.

With that cue, council members indicated a preference to the two designs that placed the RV park to the north and the park and festival and park grounds to the southeast. In addition to moving those latter two elements to more wooded areas, it would make the park elements more visible to those arriving at the park from Ottawa Street.

Council members expressed preference for the festival area concept that enhanced a natural amphitheater with a limited amount of grading. The stage would be placed so viewers in the amphitheater would get a view of the river behind performers, Pickert said.

What Pickert called his most daring concept proposed 79th Street be realigned to the southern edge of the park, rather than slice through the southern part of the property.

Council members agreed the realignment offered the best solution. Councilman Ted Morse said the realigned road could also serve as a levy to prevent flooding from the small creek that runs along the southeast boundary of the park. Pickert acknowledged the problem was the cost, which was estimated at roughly $125 a foot for the realignment.

However, Pickert said all of the concepts remained viable even should the road not be moved and could be developed with realignment slated for a later phase.

City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle said he and Pickert gained entry last week to the old sand plant scale house and office at the site and found it in surprisingly good shape. The two men suggested it could be remodeled into an onsite office and provide living space to a seasonal caretaker, who would oversee the RV park and perform other duties in return for free rent. Such arrangements could also address security concerns at the site, it was suggested.

Pickert will now work on incorporating council comments in the design. The goal is to have the final design finished by September and start making $450,000 at the site this year.

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