County OKs Wells Overlook plan

Jere McElhaney has a choice to make when it comes to clearing trees from the top of Wells Overlook Park.

And there’s no doubt about which way he’s leaning.

“In my estimation I think it’s going to take 14, 18, 20 months to clear all those trees by hand, drag them up there and burn ’em,” said McElhaney, chairman of the Douglas County Commission and leader of its effort to clean up the park. “If you guys would turn me loose with some ‘dozers, I can have it done in three weeks.”

McElhaney took his idea to his fellow commissioners Wednesday night, and they said they weren’t about to stand in the way.

“Do it however you want to do it,” Commissioner Bob Johnson said. “I don’t care how you do it, just as long as it gets done.”

Commissioner Charles Jones said that opening up the area would be expected to drive away many existing problems, including litter, vandalism and untoward loitering.

“I think this’ll do exactly what we want it to do, in terms of the use of that facility,” Jones said.

With the endorsements, McElhaney and other members of his volunteer Wells Overlook Restoration Committee this fall intend to start clearing all but a handful of walnut and other hardwood trees from 8 acres of the 17-acre park southeast of U.S. Highway 59 and County Road 458 south of Lawrence.

Volunteers sought Volunteers interested in helping clear trees and restore prairie grasses at Wells Overlook Park may contact Jere McElhaney, project leader, by phone at 842-4757, by fax at 842-6593 or by e-mail at

The plan also calls for:

Burning and replanting the cleared area with native grasses.

Repairing or upgrading the existing sand box, while preserving an existing shelter and picnic tables.

Hand-clearing of four trails weaving throughout the park.

Adding an accessible ramp connecting the park and its 40-vehicle parking lot.

Volunteers likely will be lined up for the spring, when committee members intend to start plating prairie grasses and otherwise restoring the park, said Ken Lassman, whose grandfather donated the property to the county in 1971.