Johnson County is celebrating two additions to its parks system this month: the colossal Big Bull Creek Park in southwest Johnson County and a playground in the Stilwell area that’s accessible to all children, including those with disabilities.
Officials will cut the ribbon Sept. 22 on Big Bull Creek Park, an expanse of about 2,000 acres at 20425 Sunflower Road in Edgerton. It is now the largest park in the county system, which also includes Shawnee Mission and Heritage parks.
The event will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and those attending can visit all three areas in the first phase of park development. Park amenities include:
▪ A nature-themed playground, with separate zones for ages 5 to 12 and 2 to 5. It will be the first county park playground with seasonal water features. It also contains a looped trail, two large picnic shelters and four-season restrooms.
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▪ A combined park maintenance building and Johnson County Park Police substation, just north of 199th Street and Four Corners Road.
▪ An 18-hole disc golf course next to the building, which will be open to the public. A free disc will be given, while supplies last, to those who stop by the course immediately after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
▪ A group campground near 213th Street east of Spoon Creek Road, which can be reserved by organized youth groups. It contains multiple camping pods, a large picnic shelter and another four-season restroom.
According to a county planning document, the idea of acquiring land for the park dates to 1997 when a Citizens Visioning Committee recommended that action be taken to balance development with the preservation of open spaces.
The next year, voters approved a referendum that allowed the park district to acquire 1,334 acres for the park between 1999 and 2001. An additional 600 acres were acquired in 2005. Development of the park had to await a budget increase for the parks district in 2015.
The district’s website put the cost of the first phase of improvements at $6 million. Part of the long-range vision is to restore natural habitats to make the park more hospitable to wildlife.
The county’s new inclusive playground has been built in Stilwell Community Park, 6402 W. 207th St. Ribbon-cutting cermonies begin at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 29 and will conclude at 1 p.m. Included are giveaways and a free lunch of hot dogs, chips, water and cookies.
The playground will feature a sloped area with climbing elements; an area with musical instruments; swings; a shade structure with a mister, a double-wide slide and a rolling slide table that participants can pull themselves along. This playground also features a merry-go- round that can accommodate a wheelchair. The Stilwell project also includes a picnic shelter and a restroom building with four extra-large stalls.
The Stilwell project and another inclusive playground at Shawnee Mission Park were added to the 2018 capital improvements budget after the Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners expressed interest in doing so.
A major goal for these projects is to make sure playgrounds are fun for all participants, said Cliff Middleton, the park district’s planning and development manager.
“Hopefully, lots of families will come there, whether they have special-needs children or not; they’re just going to come because they’re really fun playgrounds,” Middleton said in a news release. “Of course, having something that accommodates kids with special needs will be popular, too.”
Construction began in July on the other inclusive playground, which could open yet this year.
Middleton said the two playgrounds have some common elements, “but we did try to make them different enough that you might want to take your family to one on one weekend, and you might want to go to the other the next weekend.”