Joco 913

Johnson County park board questions proposal to add soccer fields at Lexington Lake

A proposal to build soccer fields at Lexington Lake Park,  8850 Sunflower Road, includes this two-field option.
A proposal to build soccer fields at Lexington Lake Park, 8850 Sunflower Road, includes this two-field option.

A proposal to build soccer fields at Lexington Lake Park is getting a cool reception from Johnson County recreation officials who worry about the project’s cost and potential effects on boaters and other park visitors.

The city of De Soto asked the county’s Park and Recreation District last year for space in one of its parks to relocate the city’s recreational soccer program, which now operates in the city’s Miller Park.

The park district’s Board of Commissioners on Wednesday reviewed the results of a concept study looking at building soccer fields at Lexington Lake Park, 8850 Sunflower Road, just west of De Soto.

Josh Cheek, a landscape architect for the design firm Confluence, laid out options that would build either two or three large fields in the southeast corner of the park, near the front entrance. In each case, the fields could be divided into smaller fields for soccer. New parking lots and restrooms would be included.

Cheek said the three-field option would cost an estimated $2.23 million and the two-field option an estimated $2.19 million.

Jeff Stewart, deputy parks director, said the district has no money budgeted for the project and De Soto has indicated it has about $150,000 to contribute. He said that the two sides haven’t begun formal discussions about the plan, including whether the city would lease the space from the district or if the city could cover more of the cost.

Regardless, board members were largely opposed to the plan.

Board Chairwoman Nancy Wallerstein said that she thought Lexington Lake Park was designed for more “passive” uses like the lake and nature trails and that crowds of soccer players, parents and spectators would change the park’s character.

“This is smack dab right in the middle of what we’re trying to restore as prairie and the first thing you’re going to see coming into the park,” Wallerstein said.

Commissioner Michael Pirner said he didn’t like the price tag, especially as the county would be paying for a project that would mostly benefit a small area.

“I’m not comfortable going there right now,” Pirner said. “I’d rather spend the money elsewhere.”

Stewart said he would communicate the board’s concerns when he presented the concept study to the De Soto City Council.

In other business:

The board accepted an updated master plan for Ernie Miller Park and Nature Center in Olathe that would extensively renovate and expand the nature center, increase parking, move an amphitheater away from trails to reduce disruptions and add a wetland for use by students.

Expanding the nature center would include adding a second story, more than doubling the building’s current usable space to 22,500 square feet.

Laurie Brown, a conservation ecologist with the design firm Vireo, told the board that the total park project would cost an estimated $15.8 million over three phases. Stewart said the district already has $1.2 million set aside for work at the park.

The board approved a plan to install a new fence around the Shawnee Mission Park’s off-leash dog area that would effectively shrink the amount of publicly available land from about 50 acres to 43.5 acres.

Bill Maasen, superintendent of parks and golf courses, said the land being fenced off was steep and posed hazards to dogs and their owners. He said the fence would be installed in August while the dog area is closed for construction of a sidewalk.

The board scheduled a public hearing and special board meeting on Aug. 6 to get public comments and take a final vote on the park system’s proposed 2019 budget.

David Twiddy: