A land donation agreement expected to pave the way for a new urban wetlands park on the city’s west side won unanimous approval from the Wichita City Council on Tuesday.
The council voted 7-0 to initiate a public/private agreement with Slawson Cos. for land in the Cadillac Lake area in northwest Wichita. As part of a bonding resolution, the council agreed that the city would pay not more than 24 percent of needed water drainage improvement costs – estimated to be about $193,000 – while Slawson is expected to pay the remaining 76 percent of project costs.
The public park is expected to be within a 93-acre area, Parks and Recreation Director Troy Houtman said. Slawson is donating about 41 acres adjacent to a planned mixed-use development, and the city already owned nearly 52 acres that it acquired in 2009.
“This is going to be a really pretty site,” Houtman said. “This will be very different from all of our other parks, which are open green spaces and tennis courts and swimming pools. This will be more of a passive park that will be used for educational purposes and being involved with the environment.”
Houtman said the city has set aside $1 million in capital improvement funds through 2018 to be used to create the park, which could include walking and jogging trails and a boardwalk, along with opportunities for other nature-related activities, such as bird watching. He added that the city needs a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to operate the wetlands park, a process that he said is in progress.
The Slawson commercial development is slated for 31 acres at the corner of Maize Road and 29th Street North, near the Sam’s Club at 3084 N. Maize Road. Slawson, the developers behind NewMarket Square, purchased the 72-acre parcel from the Pracht family last year.
“Bill Pracht and his family owned this land for almost 100 years,” said Jerry Jones, vice president of Slawson. “I hope, as this project moves along, that the Pracht name is associated with the wetlands park.”
Jones said floodwater control features, including storm water retention ponds, are important to both the city’s and the developer’s interests. The public access area of the park will also include parking options for visitors and a fishing pond, city officials have said.
“This is a win-win for everyone,” said City Council member Bryan Frye, who represents northwest Wichita. “This project will preserve a treasured environment and provide additional jobs and retail and dining options, along with helping with storm water management. This project does all this without incentives or increased taxes.”
One of the major benefits for both parties involves water management enhancements, which stand to aid the development and the city, Jones and Frye said. Additional storm water retention ponds – the city already controls some south of the planned park – will be in the wetlands area, which will serve as floodplain buffers for the development and the city.
“What a great addition and a great public/private partnership,” said Mayor Jeff Longwell. “One of the biggest issues on the west side has been flood control. This is really going to be a nice enhancement to the west side and one that I think people will truly treasure.”
Portions of the park and the commercial development could be ready as soon as fall 2016.