Improvements to city and county parks this year point up the role they can play in people’s lives.
For example, a Grandparents Park soon will offer senior citizens from three southeast Wichita neighborhoods – and everyone else – a new place to walk and exercise. And the city is working to get a grant that would allow a new housing and business development in northeast Wichita to have access to a park and lake that is close by but not now readily reached.
The additions seek to bring people outdoors, where they can get some fresh air and exercise, said the city’s parks and recreation director, Doug Kupper.
And the park developments sometimes have an unusual genesis and financial source.
Such is the case with the Grandparents Park. The AARP helped three neighborhoods – Schweiter, Schweiter East and Sunnyside – do an analysis to see what improvements could be made in their areas of southeast Wichita to benefit all the residents. “There was a possibility of a park that came out of it, and AARP liked it so much they offered $15,000 to get it started,” Kupper said.
The reason it’s being called Grandparents Park is “that end of those neighborhoods is slightly older. It’s someplace where older residents could get out and get some exercise. They could then bring their grandkids to the park.”
The city owns a “kind of wasted space” the size of two city lots that it has been maintaining, Kupper said, and that is what will be used for the pocket park. It is on Kellogg Drive, a remnant of an acquisition for Kellogg improvements.
“It’s not going to cost the city any more to call this a park,” Kupper said. The $15,000 is being used to put in a walking path, an exercise station, benches and a couple of trees.
“It will be a functioning park based on the ideas, but there’s room for additional elements” if a benefactor wants to contribute, he said.
It should be ready in March or April.
A preventive measure is being done along Cowskin Creek to stabilize the bank and make sure the bridge over the creek at Pawnee Prairie Park will continue to be stable for horses and their riders and pedestrians who use it. The bridge is fine, Kupper said, but erosion on the bank makes it appear shaky.
“In the future, we don’t want to lose that asset,” he said.
The city also is pursuing a National Recreational Trails grant to pave a walkway at North Chisholm Creek Park off the west side of Woodlawn north of K-96. Right now the lake is mainly used by fishermen. Some apartments and offices are going in nearby, and the city wants to make a new access point to the park for them and those in the existing neighborhood, Kupper said.
“We want to make sure that as the neighborhood grows they have access to paved walkways so if there are physically challenged people either in the new apartments or the residential area to the northeast, they have the opportunity to get out and enjoy that lake and fresh air and get some exercise.” It will also make conditions more attractive for the fishermen, Kupper said.
Indoors, a new fitness center will be constructed at Linwood Recreational Center at 1901 S. Kansas. The hope is to have it completed in the fall, Kupper said. “We’re excited to be doing something the neighborhood has been asking for.”
There’s “a pretty good senior base” at Linwood, so the fitness equipment will be useable by all ages, Kupper said.
The reaction to the city’s dog parks has been very positive, Kupper said. He sees some growth areas on the city’s recreation front: a fledgling lacrosse league and a partnership with the Wichita Ice Center to get more people ice skating.
Sedgwick County Park will get a new building this year, an enclosed shelter that can be rented for gatherings such as family reunions. It will be on the east end of the parking lot of the Sunrise Boundless Playscape, on the north end of the park. Park superintendent Mark Sroufe hopes it will be ready by Christmas.
“We’re doing it in-house to save county money, doing as much of the work as possible,” Sroufe said.
The playscape, which opened in 2008, was built to accommodate children with disabilities.
And work will begin toward the end of the year as the restroom just south of the park office is razed to make way for a new one to be completed next year, Sroufe said.
Park use was down last year, Sroufe said, perhaps because of the hot, dry summer and the economy.
But the park’s visitors are loyal.
“It’s amazing how many people have their own little niche,” he said. “They want to take care of it, and they let us know if something is wrong.”