A request for millions of dollars to help buy or develop parks, preserves and a trail in Douglas County was put before the county commission Monday.
"I think that many of us have underestimated the natural resources in the area and their attraction," RoxAnne Miller, executive director of the Lawrence-based Kansas Land Trust and a member of the economic development board, told commissioners.
Miller said the economic development board recommended the community spend $2.35 million between now and 2015 for four specific open-space projects. Additionally, the board in a report recommended reserving another $2.65 million for future, undetermined open-space purchases.
"I'd like the commission to begin thinking on how you can plan for this and begin to budget some form of funding in the 2007 budget," Miller said.
County commissioners made no decisions regarding the request Monday, but commended the report, saying it had a decent chance of getting community support.
Commission Chairman Charles Jones said there likely will be some skepticism regarding the matter of open space and industrial space, which is something the economic board also has been focusing on.
"I hope we can keep everyone together and working on this," Jones said.
But commissioners also voiced concerns about the economic feasibility of the request.
One of the four cited projects involves the Two Rivers Trail, a project that would link trails along the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers. The project totals $5 million and includes a pedestrian bridge over the Kansas River near the intersection of Eighth and Oak streets.
"A $1.5 million pedestrian bridge is a high cost for something I see as having low use," Commissioner Jere McElhaney said.
Miller said a pedestrian bridge is considered more attractive for the trail than the Kansas River bridge connecting north and south Lawrence.
"The truth is, this type of commitment builds momentum," she said. "There is a good possibility of people from all over using it."
The following are the four open-space projects designated by the Lawrence-Douglas County Economic Development Board: ¢ Kansas River pedestrian bridge - The bridge would cross the river at approximately North Eighth and Oak streets in North Lawrence. It would connect to trails along the Kansas River and city trails that would lead all the way to the Wakarusa River. The entire bridge and trail project is estimated to cost $5 million. The report recommends funding of at least $1.5 million to get the project started. ¢ Black Jack Battlefield preservation - The report recommends $300,000 go toward paying land costs and restoring native prairies at the battlefield site east of Baldwin near U.S. Highway 56. ¢ Baldwin Woods preservation - Another $300,000 would be devoted to purchasing a conservation easement to ensure that development doesn't occur on 100 acres of high-quality forest immediately west of Kansas University's Breidenthal Biological Reserve near County Road 1055 north of Baldwin. ¢ Native prairie preservation - The report recommends $250,000 to preserve pieces of native prairie that still exist in the county. The location could be 150 acres of property near Lone Star Lake.