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Plans for Big Bull Creek Park in southwest Johnson County making headway

The Johnson County Park and Recreation District plans to develop Big Bull Creek Park near Edgerton.
The Johnson County Park and Recreation District plans to develop Big Bull Creek Park near Edgerton. File photo

Preliminary plans for the first phase of Big Bull Creek Park in southwest Johnson County have received largely passing marks from parks leaders.

At a meeting Monday, the county’s Park & Recreation District board of directors raised only minor suggestions for Dolores Silkworth, a representative of RDG Planning & Design, the Des Moines-based firm hired to develop plans for the almost 2,000-acre park between Gardner and Edgerton.

Silkworth laid out more than $3.7 million in proposed construction and activity areas near the central entrance to the park off Sunflower Road and for a group camping area in the southern part of the park.

RDG envisions the entry section to include a 100-space parking lot, two picnic shelters, a restroom/information kiosk, two open play lawns, three-quarters of a mile of walking trails that would connect with nearby Martin Creek Park, areas restored to the look of the original Kansas prairie, and a nature playground.

The playground would include rock climbing, a limestone spring water feature, rope spider nets, an obstacle course, a swing, farmhouse pumps, an American Indian-themed play area and a separate play area for younger children.

Some board members expressed concern about the proposed distances between the picnic shelters and the play areas, saying parents would want to sit closer to keep a better eye on their children. They also questioned an activity area that allowed children to pump water into a series of gutters, afraid sections of gutter could be stolen and large amounts of water could be wasted.

Jill Geller, the district’s executive director, said staff would look at potential changes to the designs. For the shelters, she noted they would be set aside for group rentals and that the plans envision separate seating near the play areas for parents.

Farther south, off 213th Street, Silkworth said the group campground would be built to accommodate up to three Boy Scout or Girl Scout groups at a time and include a picnic shelter and a set of portable restrooms.

Bill Maasen, superintendent for parks and golf courses, said there was need for more campground space as the two group campgrounds at Shawnee Mission Park are reserved almost every weekend throughout the summer.

“I expect this to be very popular,” Maasen told the board.

Board member Leslee Rivarola, however, said she didn’t like the idea of portable toilets, even though Geller said existing campground sites use portable toilets as well.

“I think if we’re going to make that investment, I would like to see that include restrooms that flush,” Rivarola said.

The board was less enthusiastic about the initial designs for a $2.2 million combination maintenance shop and park police substation building planned for the northern part of the park near the intersection of Four Corners Road and West 199th Street.

Planners with SFS Architecture presented a 5,400-square-foot building with metal siding and a separate 2,400-square-foot equipment barn.

The architects said the building was designed for future expansion, but some board members said they felt the building was too small and would be outgrown immediately. They also said they didn’t like the design, questioned the amount of surrounding asphalt and didn’t think the all-metal design would fit with nearby structures in Edgerton.

“I’m not buying into the space allocation, I’m not into the exterior look,” board member Nancy Wallerstein told the planners. “I’d like you to go back to the drawing board.”

Meanwhile, board members had few comments about a very modern update to replace the current 1980s-era beach house at Shawnee Mission Lake.

Andy Short with International Architects Atelier presented plans for a simple structure with restrooms, a vending machine area and space for 12 picnic tables. However, it would be located under a swooping roof to keep the picnic area out of the sun. The design also included a sun deck along the edge of the covered area and new stairs and handicapped-accessible ramps to the beach area.

“I love the look of it,” Wallerstein said. “It reminds me of the ‘Flying Nun.’ 

The beach house is budgeted to cost up to $814,500.

This was the first look the board got of the three plans. District staff hopes to complete construction plans for the three projects later this year and begin construction either this year or early next year.

Geller said the district plans to have the new beach house ready by next summer and the Big Bull Creek Park areas ready by late 2017.

David Twiddy: dtwiddy913@gmail.com

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