Archive for Thursday, May 22, 2008

Johnson County to plan two new parks between De Soto and Eudora

May 22, 2008

The man who will lead the effort to plan a new Johnson County regional park to the west of De Soto said site has a split personality.

"The Rieke Lake site is just a beautiful-looking property," said P.J. Novick of principal with Bowman, Bowman, Novick Inc., a firm contracted by the county to development a park master plan for the property. "It has highland prairies on the southern section and heavily wooded bluffs down to the river with deep crevices on the northern portion.

"It's amazing that kind of environment is still left in Johnson County. The park district showed a lot of foresight in preserving the area."

The county announced last week it hired Bowman, Bowman, Novick to complete master plans for the 465-acre Rieke (pronounced Ricky) Lake site just north of Kansas Highway 10 on Sunflower Road near De Soto and the 900-acre Cedar Niles site west of Kansas Highway 7 and south of 119th Street in Olathe. The two sites will become the county's fourth and fifth regional parks with Shawnee Mission, Heritage and Kill Creek regional parks. Part of the process will be naming the two future parks.

In conjunction with the Rieke Lake master plan, the firm was asked to develop a master plan for the Sunflower Nature Park. That 60-acre property - which already has a milelong walking trail small fishing pond and shelter - is about a mile south of the Rieke Lake property on 103rd Street.

Area residents will have an opportunity to suggest how the Rieke Lake property and Sunflower Nature Park should be developed at a public workshop from 6 to 8:30 p.m. June 2 at the De Soto Senior Center, 32905 W. 84th St.

The Johnson County Parks and Recreation District bought the majority of property of Rieke Lake site for $4.9 million April 2004. The name derives from a 30-acre lake the Rieke family built on the land.

"It was owned by the Rieke Construction family, and they did a great job of planning it (the lake) and building it.," Novick said.

Since being hired to do develop a master plan for the properties, Bowman, Bowman, Novick planners have spent a lot of time at the sites becoming familiar with their topography, vegetation and waterways, Novick said.

That review suggested some future uses, such as fishing at the lake and shelters near it and trails in the wooded northern portion of the Rieke Lake property, Novick said. Those suggestions will be presented at the workshop as "potential opportunities" for development along with aerial photographs and descriptions of the sites.

But there are no maps showing any futures uses at the sites.

"We haven't done any design work as for what the future uses will be," Novick said. "We want the public to tell us what should be there."

Cliff Middleton, Johnson County Park and Recreation District planning and development manager, said public comment played a big role in developing the master plan for Kill Creek Park about four miles south of De Soto when residents said it should be preserved for passive uses like trails and fishing rather than ball fields and other active uses.

"The Rieke Lake property is closer to a developed area so it might be different," he said. "We'll see what the public comment is."

The planners will use the public comment to develop preliminary alternatives that will be shared at a second public meeting in July. The final master plans for both properties are to be revealed in October, Novick said.

The designers have been asked to look at connections between the two parks and the new De Soto Riverfest Park, the first phase of which is now being construction about a mile northeast of the Rieke Lake property on the Kansas River, Middleton said.

"We asked the consultant to look at how the site relates to other sites around it," he said. "It does make sense there should be some connections. We didn't say what those connections should be."

In that respect, the two sites near De Soto are similar to the Cedar Niles property his firm is master planning, Novick said. Connections is also a consideration at the 900-acre Cedar Niles site, which is near the park district's Ernie Miller Nature Park and Lake Olathe, owned by the city of Olathe.

The public workshop for the Cedar Niles site will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. June 4 at Ernie Miller Nature Center, 909 N. Kansas Highway 7 in Olathe.

Like the De Soto Riverfest Park, financial constraints will probably dictate a phased opening of a park on the Rieke Lake property, Middleton said.

"The first opening will probably be fairly modest, probably some fishing and uses near the lake," he said. "It will probably be three years before we have any opening there."

A number of maintenance and upgrade projects to existing properties are on the district's capital improve


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