Archive for Monday, April 2, 2007

Overlooked? Park slowly fulfills potential

Clean-up efforts have helped land, but more volunteers still needed

April 2, 2007


Ken Lassman has been trying to revitalize Wells Overlook Park for the last five years. Lassman, seen from the top of the park's signature lookout tower Thursday evening, has ties to the park through his grandfather, who donated land for the park in 1971.

Ken Lassman has been trying to revitalize Wells Overlook Park for the last five years. Lassman, seen from the top of the park's signature lookout tower Thursday evening, has ties to the park through his grandfather, who donated land for the park in 1971.

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.


Terri Ferguson 10 years, 10 months ago

How come whenever my family and I go up to Well's Overlook there are several cars with just one male passenger up there? What are they doing??

lawrencian 10 years, 10 months ago

I took a foreign guest up to Wells Overlook just yesterday, and I was appalled at the amount of trash, both on the ground, and on the tower stairs and landings. Perhaps the County needs to consider closing the park at dusk, rather than 10 p.m., during the winter months.

I was also sad to see that the playground equipment was gone -- does the County plan to install any new playground equipment? That would go a long way toward making the park more kid-friendly again!

lakings1 10 years, 10 months ago

I don't sleep very much and I used to like walking at the small park in my neighborhood and around the campanile, often very late at night. I've never noticed this illicit activity that seems to be so prevalent (with the possible exception of some lone guys at the campanile). I find it equally disturbing that I might be approached by someone or that I might be taken for someone out cruising and be accosted.

I enjoyed going out to the overlook park to relax and take a walk but found it either badly trashed or locked up often enough that I quit going. Maybe there should be some community service clean-up crews assigned to these areas.

Moderate_Republican 10 years, 10 months ago

I've had nothing but trouble trying to use the boat ramp at the River Front Park by Teepee junction. My truck has been vandalized. Cars park blocking the ramp. Drugs are passed around openly. Trash is strewn everywhere. People have sex in open view of the river.

So how does Lawrence respond? Not by enforcing the laws, but by closing the gates of the park at night so canoers can no longer take out there at night.

If such problems were caused by anyone but gays, Lawrence would not tolerate the behavior. A couple of highly publicized raids, could solve the problem.

redfred 10 years, 10 months ago

I went by the park at Noon on Saturday and noticed the gate was still locked. How can families use the park on the weekends if it's locked up??

BS20 10 years, 10 months ago

Watching storms roll in from the overlook is the best.

Moderate_Republican 10 years, 10 months ago

I've notice that the JW hasn't done any articles on this fairly well known problem at both parks either.

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

Let me preface this with this statement: I am not anti-gay person, homosexuality doesn't bother me and I think they should be allowed to marry, but here's what I don't understand. Why do they have to meet up in parks and rest stop bathrooms? You don't see bunches of hetero people loitering about at the rest stop or the out-of-the-way park looking for random, chance sexual encounters. No, they do that at bars, where it's intended. And, when you factor in the internet, there's really no reason a person shouldn't be able to meet up with that other person that's into whatever in the world may tickle them both with a feather--so what's the purpose of cruising around at a park. Parks are for children, dammit and you shouldn't be out there, leaving your condoms in the grass and basically putting dirty bad ju-ju on the park. That's just wrong.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years, 10 months ago

The last time I went to W.O. was to read my Bible in peace on a nice spring day. As I sat in my car WITH BIBLE IN HAND, two men (separately) approached me. One made small talk, then realized I was not there "for that" and left. The other guy was less smooth, and after a little chatting, directly ask me if I wanted a "B*-J". I declined (with my Bible still in my hand - "Hello, get a clue!"), but he asked "are you sure?" before leaving. I called the sheriff when I got home. I took down his tag number (you know who you are, Mr. Osage county!), but the cops did nothing.

Confrontation 10 years, 10 months ago

Considering that many of these park men are married, I doubt they want a hotel fee showing up on their credit card bill. Plus, the young men that they're paying for do not want to pay the hourly hotel fee. This leads them to the parks. The same is true for hetero cheating husbands.

Confrontation 10 years, 10 months ago

I'm pretty sure that there have been just as many hetero couples who have "done it" at that park and others. Where do you think your teenagers are going? Where did your parents go? Where did you go?

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years, 10 months ago

"Why do they have to meet up in parks and rest stop bathrooms? You don't see bunches of hetero people loitering about at the rest stop or the out-of-the-way park looking for random, chance sexual encounters."

That's because these men have "issues". They are sex addicts. They are not looking for a "relationship". They HATE what they do (whether they admit it or not). And, like so many addictions, these are impulsive behaviors for them, so they don't plan ahead. Otherwise, they'd just form a "random stranger sex club" and hook up in the privacy of their homes. When you are ashamed of your behaviors, you don't form a club and distribute "calling cards". These guys live hopeless lives.

If this sounds like you, go to

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years, 10 months ago

"I'm pretty sure that there have been just as many hetero couples who have "done it" at that park and others. Where do you think your teenagers are going? Where did your parents go? Where did you go?"

No, not IN PUBLIC. I hear what you are saying, but there are always ways to keep your "stuff" private that allows you to avoid having sex IN A PARK.

I knew a guy who led a secret life. It was easy: a special credit card that he had mailed to his business address. The wife never knew, and never would have known if he hadn't accidentally whipped out the "wrong" card one night. He was spending hundreds in his "secret" life, and she didn't have a clue.

No, when you are "doing it" in public, there is more going on than "I don't want to get caught".

Teri Chambers 10 years, 10 months ago

I tried to take friends from out of town there Saturday afternoon only to find the gate closed and locked.

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

confrontation, in answer to your question, my parents are of the age that my mother was chaperoned when she was on dates with my father by her older brother. I doubt very seriously they were doing it at the park. As for myself, I was never a park sl*t. I always had a little more respect for myself than to be doing it in a van, a park or a public restroom. But then my friends always referred to me as "the prude" so, go figure. I could never get it on in a park because the fact that children play there would make me feel like slime. I assumed others would feel the same way. I could be wrong, though. "Who knows what evil lies at the heart of man", and stuff, right?

Confrontation 10 years, 10 months ago

I'm betting that majority of posters on this site have had sex somewhere other than a bedroom or building. People just freak out when it's not hetero sex. I definitely agree that buying sex and having it completely out in the open are two disgusting things. Meeting up in restrooms is also pretty sick. Meeting up for big group sex conferences in public parks is not okay. If you're having sex in your car, in a secluded area, and there is no one else present, then so be it. Straight people do it. Your teens are doing it.

Confrontation 10 years, 10 months ago

Acg, you are a prude. Referring to everyone as park sluts is pretty stupid. I'm sure your parents found other times and locations to get on with their groove thing. There are plenty of married couples doing it in non-bedroom locations. I bet you're the missionary position type of person who plans the once-every-six-months moment of intimacy. No one should be having sex while kids are running around in the park. If the occassional late-nigh, backseat hook-up occurs, then who cares? Most people have done it, and I bet your better half sure wishes you did.

Emily Hadley 10 years, 10 months ago

First, in response to above poster, many gay people DO read the Bible, and everyone's a sinner, so what they were doing there is as irrelevant as their orientation.

I love the Overlook, we went there a lot when I was young. Unfortunately, every time I have been out there in at least the last ten years, I have had a Sheriff's car pull in and demand information, often before I was even able to climb the tower. I used to like taking photos of the sunsets and just enjoying the view, but after a while it was clear that someone was calling the police every time a car went in, the police had nothing to do but hang out nearby and wait, or I just wasn't welcome there.

The gate was often locked at odd times as well.

It would be nice to go back out there, but I gave up after always having to get all my documentation out of my glovebox and justify why on earth I was trying to enjoy a pretty place on the edge of town. They would always point out some litter or tell me a crazy story of something that happened recently, as if I had anything to do with any of it. Once cop hit on me after he took my license, to the point of a threatening proposition, and another once searched my car for spray paint immediately after following me in the gate.

I have always picked up a few things and tossed them or taken them home to recycle, I have definitely always been respectful, but it wasn't worth it anymore.

Getting harrassed by bored cops is never my idea of a good time, but it got really old when I just wanted to get away from everything for a few peaceful minutes and ended up driving home angry and freaked out.

Hopefully an image upgrade will convince the police, as well as the visitors, that more people enjoy the park than just cruisers and poorly adjusted kids.

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

Wow, confrontation, I see why you get your name. Aren't you a hateful little prig? I'm a prude in bed, my husband is bored with me and I'm just into missionary sex because I don't think people should be getting it on where people walk their dogs and their children play? Okay, pervo, whatever. Have a nice day. :)

Confrontation 10 years, 10 months ago

I'm sure your husband is bored with you. That's a given. I bet the person he's meeting in the park is much more exciting :)

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

My husband is laughing at you. He also seems to think that a person that would attack someone, like you have me, about a topic such as this, has a reason for it. Did it hit close to home, sicko? Is the guilt of the secret gay sex encounters bothering you? If so, I'm sure there's some church organization or therapy group somewhere that can help you out. You don't have to hide your perversions anymore, confrontation. We're an open society now. You can get the help you need. My husband (newlywed husband, btw) suggests Two Rivers. You can google their phone number. I would do it for you, but my hubby is throwing on his Cap'n Jack Sparrow get-up and we're going to play angry pirate and the naughty bar wench. See not all normal, married people have nothing sex lives. Some of us enjoy our spouses and don't have to sneak off to the park late at night to meet faceless, nameless persons for a chance, possibly diseased encounter. If that makes us boring, so be it.

Moderate_Republican 10 years, 10 months ago

Confrontation, sure, the I'd also imagine that lots of people have at one time or another had sex outside.

But there's a vast difference between a couple having sex together in a car, parked in a private, remote location at night, vs large groups of people repeatedly congregating together in a public park for the purpose of random sexual pickups, having sex in the open, tossing trash and used condoms around, dealing drugs, and harassing others who want to use the parks for the parks intended purpose. Notice, it's not same-sex conduct I'm criticizing. It is antisocial behavior that I'm talking about.

bd 10 years, 10 months ago

Stupid out of town ,gay, hillbilly, rednecks!

kugrad 10 years, 10 months ago

I used to go out to Well's Overlook fairly often to run my dogs on the trails and check out the view. I kept interrupting men having sex on the picnic tables below the tower on the trails to the west. It was embarrassing for me and for them. I haven't been there for some time and this had a lot to do with it. It was definitely a major cruising spot for what was probably strangers meeting for sex. I don't really care what consenting adults do, but I do wish they would get more exercise by moving farther away from the tower because it is really awkward and it would be worse if I was out with my kids instead of my pets!

Jack Hope III 10 years, 10 months ago

I was at the river front park on Sunday and played a round of disc golf without being propositioned by anyone. Granted, I was with a buddy of mine, so perhaps they just assumed that I had already shacked up.

If not for the disc golf course, I would never have a reason to use the Riverfront park near Tee-Pee Junction.

I think the main thing is... give people a reason to go there. I'm sorry, but I really don't care about the Overlook. I went there once, and once I checked out the tower, it didn't seem like there was any other reason to stay there.

However, if there were mountain bike trails and a disc golf course there, I'd probably start going there all the time. Anyone here ever see how many mountain bikers are using the trails off of 8th and Oak in North Lawrence, or how many disc golfers are using Centennial Park? Do you think that these drugged-out, gay, anti-Christian litterbugs are going to hang around with all the traffic?

Give people more reasons to visit and use the park, and you will probably get rid of the problem. However, the drugged-out, gay, anti-Christian litterbugs that have everyone so freaked will probably go somewhere else. Is there a park in your neighborhood?

Parks are always going to attract some "sketchy" elements. I've been guilty of using parks for my own sketchy activities. I imagine most of you have probably had sex, drank underage, smoked something, etc, etc, in a park. Come on, admit it.

Martin Shupert 10 years, 10 months ago

I sure do wish Lawrence had a hill for sledding that was worth a tinker's dam. Overlook Hill should have a side that empties down into a safe area. That would be a whole lot of fun and open the park up for winter recreation as well as make a nice view... just too many trees....

Confrontation 10 years, 10 months ago

Acg, I'm sure your hubby had some nervousness to his laugh. Once he gets past the excitement of being newly married, he'll become completely bored with you. How could he not?

Suesay: If you don't like the comments, then don't read them. It should seem pretty simple, even to idiots like you.

Moderate_Republican: I completely agree with you. I was just pointing out that most people would have no problem with straight people screwing around in the park. It's when we mention man-on-man that most people freak out about it. Trying to meet up with other random people in the park (for sex) is truly disgusting and dangerous.

Jack Hope III 10 years, 10 months ago

I keep being reminded of the reason I usually don't contribute to these LJWorld discussions: too many personal attacks.

I'm always amazed at the things people will say when they have the shield of anonymity.

Ken Lassman 10 years, 10 months ago

As happens all too frequently on these JW discussions, the content of the article seems to have disappeared in all the namecalling and tangential asides.

I went out a few days ago and found the park to be much cleaner and more open than I remember it, and I wasn't accosted by any lone male predators, to boot. Graffiti has been cleaned off, the shelter has a new roof, and the view was spectacular and worth the trip by itself.

Frankly, I think folks ought to reclaim this park, start taking their families out on picnics and enjoy the more open landscape and volunteer for cleanups there. The park is much improved, so if instead of complaining about how bad it used to be, go out and see for yourself. Plan a family reunion, a church picnic, a get-together there and the number of folks doing "normal" activities will help continue the trend that has already started. And if it's locked or you do have the unfortunate experience of being approached by someone, call the sherrif then and there, and they'll get the idea that people care.

acg 10 years, 10 months ago

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suesay 10 years, 10 months ago

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