It's been five years since Ken Lassman asked the Douglas County Commission to revitalize Wells Overlook Park.
The park had deteriorated and considerable maintenance was needed. There also were problems with vandalism and visitors didn't feel safe, Lassman said.
Today when Lassman stands on the third level platform of the park's signature observation tower he feels much better about the land his grandfather donated to the county in 1971.
"They have done a lot of cleaning up and opening up the park," Lassman said, of the county. "The visibility is much better than it used to be."
But Lassman would like to see more done to the park, located three miles south of Lawrence along County Route 458.
"I'd still like to see more prairie grass restoration with the idea of bringing back the original habitat," said Lassman, who lives near the park.
Lassman also thinks the park, which sits on a high hill at the end of a winding road, could be showcased in conjunction with the county's "Bleeding Kansas" heritage. He noted that Quantrill's raiders rode south after destroying Lawrence in August 1863 and might have come near the park's location.
"It's a nice place to go if you are talking about that sort of thing," Lassman said.
In 2003, Commissioner Jere McElhaney led a group of volunteers who cleaned up the park and its nature trails. Boy Scouts, Heartland Community Church members, the Wakarusa Fire Department and others pitched in to help. The effort made the park safer for families to visit, Lassman said.
But more work needed to be done and the volunteer effort couldn't be kept up.
"It's hard to get volunteers. People are just so busy," McElhaney said. "But for the people who have been involved in this, their work is very much appreciated."
In recent months, the Douglas County Public Works Department has made more improvements. More trees have been cleared and some native grasses were planted around the picnic shelter and tower, said Mike Perkins, public works operations director. At the back of the park, some rye grass was planted to help curb erosion, he said.
"We've been doing this incrementally when we have time," Perkins said.
The county may consider developing a plan to further improve the park and hire a contractor to do some of that work. Commissioners have a list of pending issues and projects on a to-do list that will be discussed during today's meeting. Wells Overlook is on the list.
"It takes a lot of manpower and expense to do it right," McElhaney said.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Department patrols the park. The park is gated and is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.