I was introduced to Wells Overlook by a friend over 25 years ago, and it has become one of my favorite places to read and meditate. I have been going there frequently (sometimes weekly) and have never seen the problems that have supposedly made this a bad place to take a family. What I have seen are deer, foxes, badgers, skunks, raccoons, rabbits and a huge variety of birds. It is a great place to enjoy nature.
The reason that family attendance has fallen is that the park is not maintained. The picnic shelter leaks like a sieve during a rain, the picnic tables on the sides of the hill are surrounded by weeds and poison ivy, the children's play equipment has rotted and been removed over time, and the park isn't mowed nearly as often as needed. On top of all that there are no restrooms (and when there were, they were not maintained). The views atop the tower are grand, but you can hardly see from the first and second levels because the trees surrounding it have been allowed to grow and block the view.
The answer to the supposed problems is improving park maintenance. Adding additional picnic shelters, adding new play equipment for the children and rebuilding the restrooms would go a long way to making Wells Overlook a family friendly place. It's true that within the last year a little maintenance has been done replacing a stairway and installing new trash cans but those things should have been fixed five years ago.
The blame for Wells Overlook's problems rest squarely on the shoulders of the county commission. The county has not given the park its due.
If the park was maintained properly, as Lawrence city parks are, it would be a great park for everyone.