Archive for Thursday, September 14, 2006

Neighbors disagree over use of land

Smaller budget changes original plan for park

September 14, 2006


Nine years after buying 40 acres in west Lawrence, city parks officials are now ready to do something with it. They're just not sure where to start.

"It's a neat area," said Fred DeVictor, Lawrence Parks and Recreation director. "Hopefully, we can pull the neighborhood together."

The land includes about 15 acres directly across George Williams Way from Langston Hughes School, as well as a ring of land surrounding the neighborhood to the east.

The city bought the land in 1997, and since then officials planned to level the field, build a playground and open space and create a trail circling the neighborhood.

DeVictor said the entire project could cost up to $700,000. In August, Lawrence city commissioners in their 2007 budget approved $200,000 to start the project.

"I know that money can only go so far, and we need to make sensible choices about how that money gets spent," said west Lawrence resident Raquel Alexander.

Alexander said she wants the city to begin work on the park because there's no public playground equipment available west of Wakarusa Drive.

"Let's get this part of the project done first, so our families have a place to picnic," Alexander said. "You can't picnic on a trail. You can't play soccer on a trail."

But many neighbors are encouraging the city to preserve the trail area before starting on the park.

"I just see it as a way for families to get in touch with nature," said Amy Bartle, who has three daughters.

Bartle's oldest daughter, Grace, walks to Langston Hughes School every day.

"Now, that Harvard Road is extended all the way through to George Williams Way, the only way for her to get to school is walking," Bartle said. "We have no bus service anymore, so if we have a trail system, it would provide an alternate way for the kids to walk to school without encountering a lot of traffic."

At this point, the parks department is keeping both options open.

Speak out

A public meeting to discuss the area will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Langston Hughes School.

"Probably the most important thing for us is that we preserve as much of that open space and the wooded environment as we can," DeVictor said. "We're not going to come in and clear a lot of things."

DeVictor hopes to hear from neighbors at a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Langston Hughes School. A recommendation of what to do first would emerge soon after that.

"We invite neighbors to come out and give their thoughts and input, so we can get started here with phase one later this fall or early next year," DeVictor said.


gccs14r 11 years, 8 months ago

Sending a child down a secluded nature trail to go to school sounds like a good way to end up missing a child.

mseybold 11 years, 8 months ago

Langston Heights Elem and the proposed park is further north where harvard and george williams way intersect. There are people's houses where the "proposed park location" bubble is pointing.

lynn3 11 years, 8 months ago

I have been involved in this process and attended many public meetings. This is story is not really about a playground or trail first. This story is about a group of people who do not want a trail behind their house. There has been opposition to the development of this property by those who live next to or near by. Some have stated in public meeitngs that they do not want the land developed at all, not the park or the trail. Other people have stated in public meetings that it is OK to put a trail in some places but just not behind their homes. They have listed their concerns as loss of trees, drainage and noise. The city is not planning on cutting down lots of trees and may have a permeable surface or bridges in some areas. They are trying now to stop it by stalling it. It is a lovely area but not meant for private us. The city paid 500,000 for this land and it is the only park land in this area. Roads and basements are currently being put it next to the trail, if the city waits for several more years to develop the trail, there may be greater opposition. This land is meant for public use. Homeowners should not be able to buy a piece of property next to a proposed city park and then tell the city and the taxpayers who paid for the land, how it can be used. I don't think families in other areas of Lawrence would react any differently. The greater majority of people in this area want the entire park developed not just the portion "allowed" by some homeowners.

Amy Bartle 11 years, 8 months ago

I hope the trail is put in first so that kids can walk to and from school using a safer route than Harvard Road. The trail would be safe because homes back up to it. It needs to be done first to prevent further encroachment on the property by homeowners who think the land is only for them and not for the public.

lynn3 11 years, 8 months ago

Yesterday, an accident occured along Harvard just as children were riding along the sidewalk to school in the morning. The crash was severe enough that a van was pushed upon the sidewalk were children had been walking and riding only moments before. Harvard has a lot a traffic in the morning as it has become a route for people to get to K10, 40 and I70. There is also much construction traffic. Getting kids off of Harvard and onto a dedicated walking and biking path would be a good thing. There will be many adults walking and biking with their children. We can't refuse to build parks and bike paths because there are some bad people in the world.

gr 11 years, 8 months ago

I think there needs to be a separation of the issue of children walking to school with the park/path. Children having to walk to school is a school non-bussing issue, which in turn could be other issues. Otherwise, strange developments could come up such as closing harvard because it imposes danger to kids.....etc, etc.

The city bought the land with a public purpose in mind.

Landowners think that will change the "atmosphere". As if THEY didn't by having a house there!

Simple alternatives:

1) The city can say we can steal your houses to make a private race track, therefore we sure as well can use our own land for public use. Forget you.

2) The city can say, well homeowners, you have good concern. We will sell it back to you.

3) The city can say, if we don't make a public use of the land, it is not legitimate for us to hang on to it. If the landowners do not wish to purchase the land, the city can put it up for sell. Then some developer can put houses there, much like the current ones, and get the property back to generating taxes for the city.

Whether it's a national park seeking to effectively expand it's borders but still having owners pay the taxes or the opposite case here of owners wanting to effectively expand their borders without paying taxes, it comes to a simple solution. If you want more land, more "atmosphere": pay for it. And if you are so shortsighted you didn't plan ahead of time, and the other owners don't want to sell, too bad.

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