John McGrew believes in personal sanctuaries. And his land donations to the city of Lawrence have helped provide area residents with undisturbed natural retreats for more than 15 years.
Saturday, about 25 people gathered to dedicate the newly renovated trail in the Conrad and Viola McGrew Nature Preserve.
John McGrew, Lawrence, donated the area to the city in 1986 in honor of his parents. In the past year the city spent $162,000 of sales tax revenue to build four bridges and replace and widen the crumbling asphalt path, said Fred DeVictor, director of Lawrence Parks and Recreation.
Mayor Sue Hack officially declared the path reopened, after which members of the community hiked the half-mile trail that runs along Inverness Drive at 15th Street.
Many stopped to shake hands with McGrew and thank him for his donation.
"I think there are a surprising number of people who use it," said Ron Durflinger, a Lawrence-Douglas County planning commissioner, adding that he had often run across other people on the trail in the seven years he had used it to walk his dogs.
The green space also serves as an important buffer between a residential area and what eventually will be a major business park, DeVictor said.
"It adds to the quality of an environment like this," he said.
In addition to the 15-acre preserve, McGrew has donated two other parcels of land to the city. The Kanza Southwind Nature Preserve is along the South Lawrence Trafficway, south of Southwest Junior High School. The Patty Dawson Billings Nature Preserve is south of 27th Street and Crossgate Drive.
The three areas total about 73 acres, and DeVictor said McGrew also had donated money to enhance and maintain them.
"It was important for us to say thanks," DeVictor said.
McGrew said he was motivated to donate the preserves because of a lifelong dedication to nature.
"I really think the greatest gift my parents gave to me - besides the gift of life itself - was an appreciation for the natural world," he said.
McGrew said he was pleased the city valued the land enough to finance its improvements, but he also urged the Quail Run neighborhood to help maintain the trail.