A group of Kansas University students has adopted an often-neglected Douglas County park south of Lawrence.
The KU chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers has worked out an agreement with county officials to help clean up Wells Overlook Park, east of U.S. Highway 59 on County Road 458.
Richard Gostautas, a KU graduate student and the university's ASCE president since December 2000, said he wanted to expand the group's presence not only on campus but also in the community. He said he talked about the adopt-a-park idea with the county's Public Works Department, which now maintains the park. The group's first cleanup efforts will start at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, he said.
"Our hope is by having a public group adopt the park, it will cut down on the amount of problems they've had," Gostautas said.
In February, Douglas County Commissioner Jere McElhaney suggested closing the park because of vandalism problems. If the county would give up the 30-acre park, the land would revert back to the Wells family, who donated it in 1970. Commissioners decided against that idea and instead agreed to allocate more money to improve the park next year.
Public Works Director Keith Browning said he will make recommendations for the park during budget discussions in the next few months. He said he would like to replace the charcoal grills, playground equipment and rest rooms, at an estimated cost of $19,400, plus hire additional staff to maintain the park.
He also is going to develop a plan for the county's parks.
Until the money is available, Browning said, he is pleased the KU group will help improve the park.
"We feel the better maintained the park is, the more attractive it will be, and there will be more people," he said.