With a growing population, the city looks to improve parks

By Corene Brisendine

With an eye toward an ever-growing population, city officials are making moves to increase the amount of park space in Manhattan.

Eddie Eastes, acting Parks and Rec director, said the city currently owns about 550 to 580 acres of developed park land. That works out to about 10 acres per 1,000 residents. The National Recreation and Park Association suggests cities keep between 6.25 and 10.25 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.

In an effort to maintain that ratio as the community grows,  the department is working on a couple of projects with more in the planning stage.  Here’s a synopsis of those efforts.

Longs Park

The city has received a community block grant to improve the park, which is just north of Fort Riley Boulevard surrounded by Yuma, Colorado Streets, 16th and 17th Streets.

Eastes said the plans include several improvements. Staff will install year-round bathroom facilities next to the pavilion. Currently, the department provides port-a-potties for only part of the year. The two bathrooms will be unisex similar to those at the Splash Park at City Park.

The walking trail will be extended to encompass the entire park. Eastes said they are having difficulties completing the trail because of a large number of trees at one end. While they don’t want to damage or remove any of the trees, they do want the trail to weave though them. So, they have to improvise by removing some underbrush.

Sidewalks will also be added part of the trail and among the playground, pavilion and bathrooms.  Finally, staff plans to use the rest of the grant to replace the deteriorated safety surface under the playground equipment. Eastes said it is similar to the artificial turf the school district installed in Bishop Stadium.

Eastes said because this was all funded through a grant, it will not impact the mill levy. Longs Park is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.


Lee Mill Heights

The Parks and Rec staff is also working on a master plan for a park in Lee Mill Heights, just south of Miller Parkway. Eastes said the master plan, which will be developed in-house rather than contracted, is not a top priority right now because Miller Parkway has not been built out to Scenic Drive. The planned park is in the area that has not been built, and therefore the department knows it will be a while before development can begin.

The land was partially purchased by the city and partially donated by Schultz Construction. Eastes said the city purchased about 40 acres of land surrounding the 30 acres of donated land, allowing the city to create a 70-acre park. Unfortunately, the park will not be a park in the traditional sense with playground equipment or recreational fields.  Instead it will be similar to Warner Park with a trail head, walking and biking trails. Eastes said the staff could not put in ball fields because the topography of the 70 acres is mostly rolling hills.


Eureka Valley/K-18 Corridor

The city commission recently adopted the Eureka Valley/K-18 Corridor Land Use Plan as part of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan now being updated. The Eureka Valley plan includes potential sites for parks along K-18 and in the valley.

Eric Cattell, assistant director for planning, said when the Eureka Valley plan was developed, “conceptual” parks were included. But the city has not made any inquiries, acquisitions or construction plans for any of the parks in the valley plan.

In the plan, one park is suggested on the north side of K-18, directly across from Stagg Hill Golf Course. Cattell said part of the land north of K-18 was acquired by the Kansas Department of Transportation as a “dig site” to pull fill dirt from for the highway.

It is also known as the land where the “Little White Schoolhouse” sat until a few years ago when a windstorm demolished that building. Cattell said the city has discussed the site as a potential passive park, like Lee Mill Heights, with a trail head and trails connecting to Anneberg Park and through Eureka Valley.

Another park-like possibility is the installation of a boat launch on the Kansas River at the golf course.

Catell said the idea of the boat launch is to promote the designation of this portion of the Kansas River as a national river trail. The designation was by Gov. Sam Brownback and the Department of Interior.

Cattell said the difficulties in building that concern whether Stagg Hill would allow people to drive through the course to reach the launch, and the cost of building it. He said the city has not even approached the owners of the course to discuss the launch idea.

Finally, the plan includes several trails along highways and around the Tech Park by the airport that have not been constructed.

Cattell said when they constructed the Tech Park, easements were established to include a walking trail or sidewalk system all the way around it, but that has not been built out because of the lack of businesses currently using the park.

He said as the park fills with businesses, they will build out the trail system around it, and hopefully create a trails and sidewalk system that connects the southwest side of Manhattan to the northeast side of Ogden.

Also, there is a concept to create a trail running parallel to the Kansas River from the proposed boat launch at Stagg Hill to the existing boat launch at Ogden.

Cattell said while all these proposed parks and trails are nice to have, they are only concepts and it would up to the city to determine which, if any, are viable options.

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