Roeland Park took a step toward big changes at a park on the site of the former Roeland Park Elementary School.
But an argument over how much of it should remain paved is far from settled.
At its Monday meeting, the Roeland Park City Council unanimously approved a master plan for a series of upgrades to its 5.4-acre R Park at 5535 Juniper Drive. R Park’s current features include a soccer field, tennis courts, playgrounds, gravel paths, a basketball court and open green space.
Under the master plan, R Park could add a picnic shelter, restrooms, a sidewalk, art spaces and more than two dozen trees along its southern and eastern borders. Also on tap are new tennis courts, converting the paths from gravel to paved and removing a baseball/softball backstop and a tether ball court.
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In the council’s discussion of the plan, many members took sides on the issue of how much of R Park should remain paved. The park currently features a large asphalted area in addition to the basketball courts.
Some members think it’s too large.
“This park, with all that asphalt, feels like a parking lot,” said Becky Fast, who was named council president at the meeting. “Our surveys have been clear. People want more green space in our community.”
Fast was joined by members Teresa Kelly, Michael Poppa and Erin Thompson in opposing an amendment, proposed by member Michael Rhoades, which keeps the door open for more paved space in the park than the current version of the master plan calls for.
Rhoades, Tim Janssen, Ryan Kellerman and Sheri McNeil voted for the amendment. Mayor Joel Marquardt broke the tie vote in favor of the measure.
Remove too much asphalt, Janssen said, and bike riders could migrate to the tennis courts. McNeil said many of her constituents have expressed similar concerns.
“This is going to make a lot of people pretty angry,” McNeil said.
Marquardt said the answer could be a “happy medium,” where much of the “hardscape” but not as much as the master plan recommends could be reduced.
“Maybe 50 percent reduced,” he said.