Proposed Rieke Lake master plan released
Trails, cross country course part of plan
Although a preliminary master plan for a new Johnson County regional park on De Soto's western doorstep included four practice soccer fields, the only competitions to be contested on the site's 465-acres would be future cross country races.
A preliminary master plan for the development for the Rieke Lake property west of Sunflower Road and north of Kansas Highway 10 was unveiled Monday at a public workshop at De Soto Senior Center. Also shared for the first time at the workshop was the preliminary master plan for the nearby 60-acre Sunflower Nature Park, located on the northwest shoulder of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant on 103rd Street.
Both plans were developed by Bowman, Bowman & Novick Inc, which was contracted by the Johnson County Park and Recreation District this spring to develop master plans for those two properties and the 900-acre Cedar-Niles property in northwest Olathe. The Rieke Lake and Cedar-Niles property will become the county's fourth and fifth regional parks with Shawnee Mission, Heritage and Kill Creek regional parks.
It was the larger Rieke Lake property - with its existing 30-acre lake and two distinct environments of upland prairie and heavily wooded slopes overlooking the Kansas River Valley - that drew most of the attention Monday. The plan unveiled Monday built on public comment shared at an earlier workshop in June. At that meeting, the public tended to favor less intrusive development for the park with lots of trails.
Except for trails and a hike-in campsite, the plan leaves largely untouched the property's northern wooded area, which makes up about two-thirds of the site. The site's southern bootleg of upland prairie, which includes the lake that would be open to fishing, would see more development. That would include a marina, a 100-person capacity shelter and playground built on the east and south side of the lake and four practice soccer fields added just north of the park's entry, which would be off Sunflower Road at the site's southeast corner.
Linking the two distinct areas would be two trails. A 3.1-mile paved multi-use trail open to bicycling and hiking would encircle the lake and then extend to the park's northwest corner, where it would make a loop on the steep slopes down to the Kansas River floodplain. Likewise 1.4mile unpaved hiking trail, extending from just north of the lake to the north-central part of the site, would include a large loop through the slopes.
The unpaved hiking trail would also be the home of eight hike-in overnight campsites, according to the plan. The overnight campsites, the first of their kind in the Johnson County park system, would be supported by restrooms and storage area.
"It's a place where you don't just drive a car in," said P.J. Novick said, a principal with Bowman, Bowman & Novick. "You walk in. You would have to call or go online to reserve a campsite."
The preliminary plan also includes boys and girls cross country courses running along the park's eastern boundary. De Soto High School cross country coach Chris McAfee said he started talking to park district officials about cross country courses at the site soon after he learned it had purchased the property from the Rieke (pronounced rickey) family in 2004.
In additional to providing a safer training site, the courses would allow his team, Eudora High School and other schools in the area to be the host of cross country meets, McAfee said. It also would be a candidate for a Kansas State High School Activities Association regional meet, McAfee said.
"That could draw a lot of people to the area," he said.
After viewing the plans, Kathy Ohmes and Janet Fulghan of De Soto said they were disappointed equestrian trails were not included in the preliminary plan, particularly in a county that has the largest number of horses in the state and the 10th largest in the nation. It was a missed opportunity for the community because equestrian events draw a large number of affluent people, they said.
Equestrian trails were included in the Cedar-Niles proposed master plan, along with dog runs, a wetlands area, restored prairie and extensive trails. All three of the master plans Bowman, Bowman & Novick are proposing can be viewed by following the planning and development links at jcprd.com.
At one of the tables set up to gather public comment, Bowman, Bowman & Novick architect Scott Bingham said the planners did not address future access to the park other than the one entry. It was a concern that would have to be addressed, he said.
Although the southern boundary of the park is less than a quarter mile north of K-10, Sunflower Road does not connect to the highway, and one- to two-mile drive on rural standard roads is required to get to the park's proposed entrance.
One possible future road project in the area spurred comment on the only significant design change proposed in the preliminary master plan. The proposed change would move its entry, parking lot and restrooms from their current location on the eastern side of the park off West 103rd Street to its western boundary, where they would also be available for De Soto's two baseball fields.
Kise Randall, executive director of Sunflower Redevelopment Inc., which owns the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, questioned the move because it would put the new facilities in the path of any future highway through the plant along an Edgerton Road route.
Michael Meadors, director of Johnson County Parks and Recreation, said the development of two parks is not on the park district's current five-year capital improvement plan. The master plan was proactive so that the park district would be able to move if the county commission expressed a desire to move forward with the project.
It was possible the Rieke Lake property could see a phased opening, with the lake made available to fishing and other features requiring less extensive development made available to the public before the park's formal opening, Meadors said. But even such a limited opening would require security, maintenance and other investments, he said.
Novick and park district officials stressed the master plan was preliminary and would be amended with public comment. Updates of the master plan will be shared at a public workshop at an as yet unscheduled date in September with the Johnson County Park and Recreation Commission and will be considered for adoption in October.
Pubic comment can be left online by following the planning and development link at jcprd.com, where the proposed master plan also can be viewed.