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New splash park planned for Buffalo Park in west Wichita

A design rendering of proposed features in Buffalo Park. The Wichita City Council will consider approving $1 million in capital improvement funds for the park, which would be the first interactive water park in west Wichita.
A design rendering of proposed features in Buffalo Park. The Wichita City Council will consider approving $1 million in capital improvement funds for the park, which would be the first interactive water park in west Wichita. Courtesy of Ochsner Hare and Hare

West Wichitans could have their first interactive splash park if the City Council approves it Tuesday.

Council member Jeff Longwell, who represents west Wichita in district five, said he and the parks board has been developing the project in Buffalo Park for several years.

“That is going to be an awesome addition to the west side,” Longwell said.

“It’s been a long process back and forth trying to find the money so that we can build that caliber of a park.”

If approved by the council on Tuesday, construction at the park, which is near Central and Maize, will begin immediately.

“It’s been a well-used park, but it just has so many issues. It doesn’t have a shelter,” Longwell said. “It’s more of almost a open space instead of what I would call a ‘built-out’ park. There’s nothing wrong with green spaces, but we need to add amenities that make it more than green space.”

Troy Houtman, park and recreation department director, said the project could be done in several phases depending on construction costs and the total project could top $1 million.

A $250,000 grant to help pay for the project has been submitted to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is also pursuing a grant through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program.

Bryan Frye, park board president, said the project is “long overdue” and that they hope to hear soon about the different grants, which would help speed up the process.

“We have spray parks in other parts across town but this would be the first in west Wichita,” he said.

The interactive water feature’s design is based on prairie themes, with sculptures and plants to represent native grasses, according to city documents.

Kansas City-based firm Ochsner Hare & Hare is finalizing construction plans for the site, which include the interactive water feature, a restroom and shelter building and a parking lot, according to city documents.

The master plan also includes additional sports fields, enhancements to the current baseball field and a walking path all the way around the park, in addition to improved access to the park from Maize Road to help ease congestion in surrounding neighborhoods, Longwell said.

If there is enough funding, the former fishing pond, which was drained because of algae and drainage problems, will be turned into a bicycle pump track. The track uses “the terrain of the pond bottom to create a continuous loop of rolling bumps and banked corners which will allow riders to use their bodies to create forward momentum without pedaling,” according to city documents.

In 2011, hundreds of fish died in the pond from a lack of water.

The pond had leaked from the bottom and suffered from an invasive plant that removed oxygen from the water for a couple of years. Hot weather then evaporated more of the water.

The pond had previously been the site of a sewage lagoon.

Officials hope to have the first phase of the project completed within a year.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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