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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

City to consider bringing parks closer to homes

June 13, 2006

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From left, Avery Mulally, 6, Hunter Mooney, 6, and Elizabeth Niles, 7, lead a charge across the lawn at Edgewood Park during a game of red light-green light. Kids enrolled in the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Summer Day Camp spent the day in the park on Monday.

From left, Avery Mulally, 6, Hunter Mooney, 6, and Elizabeth Niles, 7, lead a charge across the lawn at Edgewood Park during a game of red light-green light. Kids enrolled in the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Summer Day Camp spent the day in the park on Monday.

It's no contest.

Seven-year-old Erin Scherl likes her backyard in her neighborhood south and west of Sixth Street and Monterey Way. But it can't compete with the brightly colored slides and swings of Dad Perry Park near 13th Street and Monterey Way.

But yet, the backyard wins out many times anyway.

"It's kind of too far of a walk for little legs," said her mother, Ruthann Reigle. "Actually, I blame it on them, but it is kind of too far of a walk for me."

More about parks

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City Commissioner Boog Highberger would like to make sure future Lawrence neighborhoods don't leave residents feeling the same way. At tonight's meeting, Highberger will lobby city commissioners to change future park standards to require that at least a small park and playground be within about a quarter mile of every new home. Currently, the city tries to meet a standard of each home being within a half-mile radius of a neighborhood park.

"If we are going to say that we have walkable neighborhoods, having a park within walking distance to every person is crucial," Highberger said. "And a half-mile is not a walking distance for most people."

But Highberger may have a tough time convincing other commissioners. The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission voted against the proposed changes, in part because leaders of the city's Parks and Recreation Department expressed concerns about how much it would cost to acquire and maintain the new parks.

"The realism of being able to meet that kind of standard is a concern," said Fred DeVictor, director of Parks and Recreation.

Video

Fred DeVictor, director of Lawrence Parks and Recreation, discusses a proposal to have a city park within a quarter-mile of every resident's home. Enlarge video

For example, he said using a quarter-mile standard would require the city to add about 140 new parks - each about 3 acres in size - during the next 20 to 30 years as the city expands its borders. That compares with about 50 parks - of about 8 acres each - during the same time period, if the current half-mile standard is kept.

Once fully built, Parks and Recreation staff members estimated a quarter-mile standard would cost the city $1 million more per year in maintenance costs, in today's dollars.

Acquiring the land also would be expensive. DeVictor said the department has had to pay $30,000 an acre for some park ground. To meet the quarter-mile standard within the existing city limits would require even greater land costs, but Highberger is not proposing that be done.

Video

Fred DeVictor, director of Lawrence Parks and Recreation, talks about a proposal to consolidate city and county parks operations. Enlarge video

Highberger said many of the costs sounded worse than they were. For example, the maintenance increase would happen over at least a 30-year period, and the city is looking at impact fees as a possible way to help fund new park land acquisition. And Highberger said people also should factor in the benefits that would come from increased park usage.

"Parks add enormously to our quality of life," Highberger said. "It is good for your health. And we need to get away from designing our cities so that every activity we do needs a car."

DeVictor said his department would consider smaller mini-parks for new neighborhoods designed to be highly walkable residential neighborhoods. He also said his department tried to promote walkability by expanding the city's trail system and using trails to connect parks and neighborhoods.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

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City Hall will consider a requirement to put a neighborhood park within a quarter-mile of every house in Lawrence. What do you think?

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Comments

lunacydetector 8 years, 3 months ago

...ummm......boog, this is all about implimenting an impact fee, isn't it?

lawrence is too spread out (because it is built around a university on a big hill) to make into a walkabout city. it's too late, even if the supposed former anarchist/mayor/defender of pot, forces an impact fee vote by the business unfriendly commission. how much extra is this going to cost the taxpayer because the city will need to emminent domain some areas to turn into park land. parks and rec would need to increase its size tremendously to handle all the mowing and pesticide-free weed pulling. it will also bring more families into town (so you have to figure more schools will need to be built - more teachers hired), then there are the activities within the park that will be necessary (different kinds of play equipment will be needed to differentiate the parks from one another - so they aren't boring) and of course each park will need a parking lot, the police department will need to increase in size to handle all these hideouts for the gangs.

gee- i guess the b.s. about growth never pays can be applied to anything, can't it?

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monkeyhawk 8 years, 3 months ago

I wonder why an acre of land is only worth $30,000 when it comes to the city, and in the case of the commercial acre + that was sold on CP even less, while our properties, for the sake of tax valuation is worth oh so much more? Is that lawrencnomics?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

Why do you hate kids, luny?

Easy, monkeyhawk-- the land comes from the developer(s) and the land is purchased from them at the "wholesale" rate that they paid for it, not the retail rate at which they will resell it to future private owners.

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Jeanne Cunningham 8 years, 3 months ago

Why NOT use the "parks" that are already in every neighborhood - you know, the ones behind EVERY public school?!?!?!

If the city wants to further develop parks for the greater benefit to the children of the city, why NOT develop the public school playgrounds - to which all children have reasonably easy access and with which they are already familiar?

I realize that there are SOME after school activities that would preclude public access for some periods of time - but scheduled/reserved events happen at public parks, too. My observation is that MOST of the time after school, the school playgrounds are VACANT and going to waste. And, during the school day, some areas would be "off-limits" because they are being used for recess during some pre-scheduled times.

When some of my children were in gradeschool, they were run off of the playground after school. The "reason": no supervision. Who supervises kids in public parks?

I really shouldn't get started on this - but the same waste of resources also happens for gymnasiums, libraries, etc. within public schools. As taxpayers, we should INSIST on better utilization of these resources - for which we have ALREADY paid!!!

I know there are many willing volunteers who could assist with supervision. And, the savings the city could make by utilizing the properties already available could be used for some basic coordinating staff, etc. Surely there is and/or could be overlap between Park and Rec staff and the public schools' staff/PTA/other parents?

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lunacydetector 8 years, 3 months ago

just another bozo, i love kids - i have a whole mess of kids, well -they are adults now, and even some of them have kids and i love them too. i'm a proud contributor to the population of the planet. be fruitful and multiply i always say.

why wouldn't the city pay the developer what the developer would charge a consumer? this is the way it is supposed to be, unless you know something else i don't know. please elaborate on your comment.

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greyhawk 8 years, 3 months ago

I realize that I was fortunate to grow up in a community with lots of parks....there were 5 parks within 1/4 mile of my backyard. None of them had playground equipment and that suited us kids since we went to the neighborhood school playground if we wanted to play there. Some of the parks were only 1 acre in size while others were 5 or 6 acres. The size differential meant that a small parcel of land ill-suited for houses could be a magnificent park, greatly increasing liveability of a neighborhood. I applaud Boog's efforts.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

"why wouldn't the city pay the developer what the developer would charge a consumer? this is the way it is supposed to be, unless you know something else i don't know. please elaborate on your comment."

A developer presents a development plan to the city before any development goes forward. The city OK's is it only if certain conditions are met, and a neighborhood park is not an uncommon condition.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

"You're also talking about 30 years worth of inflation. So Fred DeVictor's $1 million estimate on increased maintenance fees is actually going to turn out to be far more expensive, not less."

"somebody who hasn't a clue about economics and business."

One of the stupidest things you've ever said, Pilgrim. The inflation argument is meaningless. Inflation will also increase tax collections, too, and the net effect is a wash.

What are you smoking this morning?

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Sigmund 8 years, 3 months ago

Add a resolution to the ballot and put it to a vote. Done.

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conservative 8 years, 3 months ago

Marion, When I read the article I read that they are only talking about this rule for new neighborhoods. I don't see any mention of going back and adding parks in existing places. Not that I'm in favor of the plan, just clarifying a point.

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Jim Fisher 8 years, 3 months ago

Are we so sedentary that walking a half mile eiether way to a park is too much effort? The future does not bode well for the alt-transport greenies.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

Boog has a disability that makes it very difficult for him to walk even a 1/4 mile, and there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of people in this town who are similarly disabled. That probably explains one reason he proposes this.

You know, I'm really surprised that none of you knee-jerkers out there make fun of him because he's a "cripple." Fits right in with most of your other favorite "criticisms."

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Godot 8 years, 3 months ago

Bozo wrote: "Easy, monkeyhawk-- the land comes from the developer(s) and the land is purchased from them at the "wholesale" rate that they paid for it, not the retail rate at which they will resell it to future private owners."

What a hoot! LOL!!! There is no "wholesale rate" for developers. They pay as little as they can, but they pay the going rate. Now, some of them might have paid $30,000 an acre for their land back when they bought it 20 years ago. If some developer wants to sell me an acre of buildable land in Lawrence for $30,000, I'll take it.

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Godot 8 years, 3 months ago

Bozo wrote of Boog, "You know, I'm really surprised that none of you knee-jerkers out there make fun of him because he's a "cripple." Fits right in with most of your other favorite "criticisms."

Bozo, once again, has earned her name.

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Godot 8 years, 3 months ago

If the new urbanism plan did not eliminate back yards, we wouldn't need all these parks. New urbanism calls for houses all bunched together with no yards. Without the parks, there will be no place to play. Crowded living, crowded playing. Control, Control, Control.

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Jim Fisher 8 years, 3 months ago

I think it was a bicycle accident that left Boog with his condition. I'm in admiration for the way he gets around. He lives about 200 feet from South park.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

The "retail" rate only happens because developers and the city have made the improvements necessary to parcel out a large section of land for individual lots. I know that's rocket science for some of you, but try to wrap your head around that difficult concept.

And Godot, a backyard is still a backyard-- some folks can afford a yard as big as a park, but most can't. That's why there are parks.

BTW, no one will make you buy a house with a small yard, but some people will happily spend their money on other things than lawn services, and enjoy the walkability of a denser city.

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Confrontation 8 years, 3 months ago

I think it's sad that a parent is unable to walk 7 blocks! I used to walk that way when I lived in the Monterey area, and it's not that bad. Perhaps it will benefit parents by making them get off the couch and walk a little further than a quarter mile.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

Fishcat-- I believe the Boog was injured diving into a bank of snow when he was in high school.

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Godot 8 years, 3 months ago

How many acres in Lawrence are now for sale for $30,000, Bozo? Where are they?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

It's probably land currently zoned agricultural on the edges of the city, and it probably depends on how many acres you want to buy, don't you think, Godot?

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Godot 8 years, 3 months ago

Then the $30,000 figure is just guessing, isn't it? Can't really make good projections of future cost based on guesses, can we?

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justsomewench 8 years, 3 months ago

why not make the parks and rec programs more affordable to the low to moderate income kids? i'd love to get my daughter involved, but i simply can't afford it.

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neopolss 8 years, 3 months ago

$30,000 is emminent domain pricing. You know, kinda like the pricing that FEMA gave Katrina victims for their flood damaged homes. In other words, way off base.

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westcoastmama 8 years, 3 months ago

Lunacy -- If the point is to make the parks within walking distance... why would there need to be parking lots.

Will these parks all be accessable? with wheelchair swings and slides?

Lawrence is odd.

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

Boog has a very good idea. Chic offers astute observations. Put the two together and Lawrence has a plan. Chic should put those thoughts out there to the City Commission. Using these areas after school hours seems logical.

Boog's ideas would be more easily implemented for new areas on the table and into the future. Making use of existing resources usually is not a bad idea.

justsomewench (michelle m.) The parks department may or may not have scholarships available?

Then again why doesn't the city take over the high school libraries for use as satellite locations? Again making use of existing resources cannot always be a bad idea.

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Godot 8 years, 3 months ago

"Then again why doesn't the city take over the high school libraries for use as satellite locations? "

Maybe the School Board should have something to say about that.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

"Then the $30,000 figure is just guessing, isn't it? "

In the article, DeVictor said it was what they have paid for some land, so, you're right, it's probably not a really useful number in projecting future costs.

"$30,000 is emminent domain pricing."

Eminent domain requires that market value be paid for properties taken by government. That may not get the owner top market price, but it won't be way below market price, either.

In new developments, it won't be eminent domain-- it'll be part of the development plan submitted to the city by developers.

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Godot 8 years, 3 months ago

"In new developments, it won't be eminent domain-- it'll be part of the development plan submitted to the city by developers."

In that case, the developments should form homeowner associations that would own and maintain the parks.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

"In that case, the developments should form homeowner associations that would own and maintain the parks."

That'd probably be good for a decade or two, until the association ceases to function, and begs the city to take over the by-then poorly maintained park.

Do you think the association should set up their own schools, police, fire and street maintenance dept's, etc, too?

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Ken Miller 8 years, 3 months ago

OK, WHY do we need parks within a quarter-mile of everyone? Our kids are getting too fat - maybe if we make them walk a little further to the park, they'll shed a few more pounds. But seriously - how about MAINTAINING the parks we already have. Ever tried to play baseball (or kickball) at Water Tower Park? And some of the swingsets all over town are in bad shape. Let's get the priorities straight.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

Why does the assumption appear to be that the only exercise gained in going to the park is during the trip there and back? Do kids just take their gameboys and sit on their tushes till it's time to go home?

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justsomewench 8 years, 3 months ago

merrill, last time i checked, we didn't qualify for a scholarship. it's a shame, too, some of their programs could really help her with her developmental delays.

thanks, though.

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anonimiss 8 years, 3 months ago

Stupid.

I lived about 2/3 of a mile from a park growing up, and it was definately within walking distance. Having a park 10 minutes away that has baseball fields, soccer fields, playground, water fountains and the such is by far better than two smaller parks 5 minutes away just big enough for slides.

1/4 a mile is 2 blocks the long way, 4 the short way. A park every 2-4 blocks? It'll be way more money than they're letting on. Even the way they say it, $1 million a year is quite a bit to fix a nonexistant problem while streets, sidewalks, and current parks are crumbling.

I've never been to a park that didn't have graffiti, alcohol-related trash, or wasn't in some way related to bad behavior. It wasn't too long ago that someone got shot at Holcom park. Increasing and spreading out the parks would only add to the problem.

"If we are going to say that we have walkable neighborhoods, having a park within walking distance to every person is crucial," Highberger said. "And a half-mile is not a walking distance for most people." Again, stupid.

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anonimiss 8 years, 3 months ago

Let me put it this way. I lived on a corner. A quarter of a mile was up the street the long way and over two streets the short way. Most of my friends' houses were about twice as far (half a mile). I was no super-human kid, but walking half a mile back and forth a few times a day was nothing.

How about another way. USD 497 provides busing at a fee for elementary school over 1.5 miles. Junior High is 2 miles. Distances under that are allowed to pay if "space is available on existing routes." Anything over 2.5 miles is free. Evidently, walking distance for the school district is between 1.5 and 2.5 miles.

To say half a mile isn't walking distance for MOST people (not some, not a few, but most) is just plain stupid. I don't like Boog and I don't think he's the brightest person in the world, but noone can be that stupid. Makes me wonder what he's really up to.

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Godot 8 years, 3 months ago

anonimiss wrote: "To say half a mile isn't walking distance for MOST people (not some, not a few, but most) is just plain stupid. I don't like Boog and I don't think he's the brightest person in the world, but noone can be that stupid. Makes me wonder what he's really up to."

I'm not sure, but there are clues. First, he is an avowed anarchist. Second, he, and the PLC, are devotees of "new urbanism." The first clue leads one to believe that he could be using his position to undermine the public's faith in government, perhaps to even bankrupt the system; the other is that his goal is to make Lawrence an anthill, crowding as many people into as small a space as possible, making them dependent upon, and subservient to, and constantly feeding the Queen Ant, city government.

Boog, Schauner, Rundle and Hack: Why do you want to remake Lawrence into the "mini-me" of the big cities from which so many residents are trying to escape?

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Godot 8 years, 3 months ago

My apologies to Hack: thank you for your dissenting vote on the "one park for every two blocks" issue. Too bad you and Mike weren't able to fend off the PLC on this one.

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short_one 8 years, 3 months ago

I am surprised that more people haven't touched on the fact that we are (rightfully so) hearing more and more about overweight children and adults. Now we are deciding that 1/2 mile is too far for MOST people!?!?!? IF (caps intentional) most people would walk/bike the 1/2 mile and then actually play on said park, that might start to cut into the weight problem. I let my 5th grader read this article and she wants to know why I make her get to and from school under her own power (we live 1/2 mile from school) . . .I, too, agree that $30,000/acre seems low since we paid $39,000 six years ago for our standard city lot.

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Richard Heckler 8 years, 3 months ago

At this point in time the City Commission could convene with the school board about using school grounds after hours for neighborhood activity in the event older neighborhoods want the same as new Lawrence areas. Perhaps school grounds can still be secured for use if they happen to meet the 1/4 mile suggestion in new Lawrence.

I do not understand why neighborhoods don't use the school playgrounds or why neighborhoods would be prohibited from doing so. Liability?

Perhaps our librairian would consider coming together with the school board on the satellite library issue which may also be after hours say after 3:30 PM for the general public.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 3 months ago

"Boog, Schauner, Rundle and Hack: Why do you want to remake Lawrence into the "mini-me" of the big cities from which so many residents are trying to escape?"

Yea, everyone who moves to Lawrence comes from a big city, and they hate parks.

You're so perceptive.

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