Harvey County voters will decide Tuesday whether to sell Camp Hawk, a 40-acre park that the county has owned since 1975.
For some, it has been the focal point of weddings, reunions, Boy Scout and Girl Scout events and more.
For the county, it has become an under-used commodity.
“About a year and a half ago. we made an internal decision to kick the idea around of putting it on the market, selling and using the money to enhance our other two parks,” said Harvey County Commissioner Randy Hague. “We need to spend some money on capital improvements and thought that might be a way to raise some funds to do that.”
A group in support of the park stepped in, petitioning Harvey County to let voters decide.
The park includes roughly 40 acres with a 4-acre park and several other amenities. It is located at 1801 S.W. 36th in Newton. From Exit 28 on I-135, it is two miles west on 36th Street.
The park has a shelter house, a lighted basketball court, a disc golf course and baseball/softball backstops.
Dan Harms was part of the group that started a petition encouraging residents to oppose the county’s sale of the park.
“I felt the citizens needed to have a voice on the park,” said Dan Harms. “For us, it is inexpensive and gives great benefits.”
Harms was instrumental in helping establish the disc golf course and has served on the Harvey County parks advisory board in the past.
When county commissioners asked which park was the most under-utilized, park rangers always responded that Camp Hawk was the one, Hague said.
“We’ve never done a study count,” Hague said. “There’s never been somebody out there full time. The shelter gets rented as much as the other parks and there is a number of visitors who go out and physically use the park.
Hague said he has “no problem with whatever the outcome of the vote is.” He cautioned people to remember that even if voters vote yes and allow the sale, that doesn’t mean the commissioners would necessarily sell the property.
“We never got with the realtors or the appraisers to see what this would bring,” Hague said. “We just were kicking around the idea. If it wouldn’t bring much money, we wouldn’t sell it. It just gives us the ability to sell it if we would ever think we could get a fair market deal.”
Camp Hawk is named after H.G. “Guy” Hawk who was a Newton banker and served as a Kansas Legislator at the turn of the 20th century. He was Newton’s mayor in 1932 and 1933 and was a county commissioner during the late 1940s. He died in 1973.
Hawk donated the land to the YMCA in 1959 and then, in 1975, Harvey County acquired it.
“I think there are a lot of memories that have happened here over the years,” said Jeremy Kindy, one of the people who oppose the sale. “I think this is about keeping your legacy and not losing green space. Developments move in quickly and if you lose a park, you never get it back. This is about conserving those spaces.”