Lawrence has lots of trails, but none that allow you to take a break and cool off at a "splash park."
That could change if city commissioners approve a new set of plans for the long-discussed Burroughs Creek Trail that would run through parts of East Lawrence.
"We keep saying this is a trail or a path, but really it is a park," said James Grauerholz, an eastside resident who has been pushing for the project. "It is not just a place to go through. It is a place to go and do."
If city commissioners approve the plans at their Tuesday evening meeting, it could give residents something entirely new to do. Mark Hecker, parks superintendent for Lawrence Parks and Recreation, said designers have included a splash park, to be built near 15th and Maryland streets, at the site of the former Morton Block plant.
The splash park would be a flat piece of concrete with four to five water-spray features that users would be able to activate.
"It is a lot of fun," Hecker said. "It is like playing with the sprinkler. The kids love it."
Hecker said several smaller communities - including Salina and Hutchinson - have built splash parks. He said the parks are a good alternative to a neighborhood swimming pool because there is a lot less maintenance and operating costs.
Now, city commissioners must decide whether they like the idea and can afford it. The entire trail project is slated to stretch from Hobbs Park near 11th and Delaware streets to an existing trail that begins near 23rd Street, in proximity to Haskell Indian Nations University campus. The new trail will run along the route of the abandoned Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway line.
Hecker said cost estimates for the project range from $1.2 million to $3.9 million, depending on whether the trail is constructed of concrete or lime aggregate, which is cheaper. The splash park would account for about $70,000 of the project's costs.
But Hecker said it would help make the area along 15th Street the hub for the trail. Planners say that makes sense because the city already owns the former Morton Block property. It currently is being used as an evidence storage area for the police department, but city leaders would like to move the facility to a new site in west Lawrence.
City commissioners already know they can't afford to build the entire trail at one time. At Tuesday's meeting - which is scheduled to begin at 6:35 p.m. at City Hall - commissioners will decide whether to begin property acquisition for the project.
Although much of the trail will run along the abandoned rail line, the city will have to deal with multiple property owners. That's because after the rail line was abandoned the property rights reverted back to adjacent property owners. That's created an issue for the city's Utility Department. One of the city's main sewer lines runs along the railway.
City Manager David Corliss said the city needs to acquire the property to ensure that the city has access to the important sewer line. Corliss said he hoped negotiations would go well, in part, because property owners can't build anything on the abandoned railway in any case. But, Corliss said the city could condemn the property if deals can't be reached with property owners.
The city has money set aside in the Utility Department budget to buy the property. But there is no money in the city budget to begin building the actual trail. Hecker said he thinks the city has a chance to be awarded some federal transportation grants that could help pay for a good portion of the project. That is how several trails along the South Lawrence Trafficway were built.
If grants do not materialize, Hecker said the city would have to build the project in phases.
"It could be one year, it could be four years, it could be 10 years," Hecker said. "It just will depend on the availability of money."