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Grain Valley shields part of historic Sni-A-Bar Farms from development

Updated: 2013-06-12T02:44:25Z

By BRIAN BURNES

The Kansas City Star

Welcome to Grain Valley: historic home of prehistoric elephants and Shorthorn cattle.

Such a sign at the city limits of the eastern Jackson County community might make sense now.

Grain Valley recently purchased 40 acres of the old Sni-A-Bar Farms, the cattle spread maintained by Kansas City Star co-founder and publisher William Rockhill Nelson in the early 20th century.

“We wanted to preserve the land and give Grain Valley a sense of place and commuity,” said City Administrator Alexa Barton.

The land acquired is part of the approximately 1,750 acres purchased by Nelson in 1912 to continue to breed the Shorthorn cattle he first had kept on property south of his Kansas City home.

The eastern Jackson County farm was known for its prized purebreds, and cattle shows at the facility drew thousands from throughout the Midwest. A board of trustees continued to operate the farm for 30 years after Nelson’s 1915 death. Eventually the property was divided for residential and school development, as well as for the formation of Monkey Mountain Park.

The area became notable for an entirely different reason in 2004.

University of Kansas scientists arrived after construction workers excavating for a pond came across what appeared to be large animal bones. The scientists identified the remains as those of a mastodon, a relative of the elephant that once roamed much of North America.

Grain Valley purchased the land because its previous owner, Great Southern Bank of Overland Park, had been contemplating selling it for much smaller lots, said Barton.

“Great Southern Bank was in the process of getting ready to break that property up,” said Barton.

Mayor Mike Todd and the city’s Board of Aldermen agreed that the city should acquire it, Barton said.

“We just knew that, if there was any way we could preserve part of that farmland for posterity and the city’s future use, we wanted to do that,” she said.

The transaction ultimately involved the sale of 85 acres for $350,000. Grain Valley paid $175,000 for its 40 acres. For the same price, Great Southern Bank sold a separate 45 acres to Swallow Tail LLC, a Harrisonville land-holding company.

“We found it an interesting acquisition for us,” said David Flick, manager of the firm, which produces prairie grasses and wildflowers on acreage across the Midwest.

“It fits into the city’s vision and also meets our basic needs for a small agricultural holding.”

The two parcels are contiguous, and are within the Grain Valley city limits. Residents soon will be asked for input as to what might be the most appropriate use of the property, as city officials anticipate drafting a master plan this summer.

“Do we utilize this land for future park space or some kind of city space?” Barton said.

“We want to talk to residents about that during our master planning process.”

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

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