Sedgwick County wants the federal government to lift restrictions on Lake Afton Park and parkland in the northeast part of the county.
Commissioners approved two resolutions Wednesday to ask Congress to pass federal law to end those restrictions.
A $7,122.50 federal grant helped Sedgwick County partially construct a bathroom at Lake Afton Park in 1966. Assistant County Counselor Justin Waggoner said a part of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act restricts what can be done with property that was developed with that type of money.
The full extent of the restriction was discovered this year as commissioners weighed what to do with the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch, a former youth residential center on the shores of Lake Afton. Commissioners ultimately voted to demolish the ranch and return the property to parkland.
Commissioner Richard Ranzau said the amount of grant money was not worth relinquishing control of roughly 800 acres of parkland.
“While we don’t expect to do anything with Lake Afton, being released from this encumbrance will just guarantee we can do whatever we want with that park,” Ranzau said. “$7,000 for fifty years: I think they (federal officials) got their money’s worth.”
Chairman Dave Unruh said the restriction amounted to “absurdity.” Commissioner Jim Howell criticized the restriction serving as a “compelling reason” for the ranch’s demolition.
“To give up control forever is not good policy,” said Howell, who opposed demolishing the boys ranch.
Northeast Sedgwick County Park, about 650 acres near 77th Street North and 127th Street East, is restricted by the same federal law, Waggoner said.
Commissioner David Dennis said county staff recently discovered that park was encumbered during a review of county properties after discovering the Lake Afton Park restriction.
“It’s just as significant overreach as Lake Afton’s (restriction) is,” Dennis said. “There may be others. We don’t know yet.”
Commissioners said the county doesn’t have any plans for what could be done with the Northeast Sedgwick County Park, a less-developed park that mainly features walking and equestrian paths.