The discovery of an apparent methamphetamine lab in a city park is cause for concern, police and other city workers said Tuesday.
“Anytime evidence of drug activity is found in the community there is concern, especially when drug paraphernalia is found near an area where children might play,” said Kim Murphree, police spokeswoman.
Authorities said a local hiker contacted them Monday night after discovering a large plastic tub containing items used to make meth. The discovery was made along a hiking trail about 300 yards southeast of the Prairie Park Nature Center, 2730 Harper St., and near Prairie Park School, 2711 S. Kensington Road.
Police said they found several glass jars filled with an unknown substance. The Olathe Bomb Squad was also called in, and its crew destroyed a briefcase found with the items.
Marty Birrell, nature interpretive supervisor at the center, said she had concerns about the meth lab ingredients being found so close to the city-owned environmental facility in southeast Lawrence. She said her staff would receive training about what suspicious activity to look for as a result.
The items found in the park are consistent with what’s known as a “shake and bake” meth lab, said Jen Brinkerhoff, director of the Regional Prevention Center of East Central Kansas. She said meth manufacturers sometimes leave their mixture in a rural or outdoor place because of its potent odor, let it settle and then come back every so often to mix it.
Margie Koeppe, who has lived across the street from the 72-acre nature preserve for five years, said she’s often noticed signs of partying and alcohol use in the park, but never expected someone would find items to make meth.
“It’s just kind of above and beyond what my mind can comprehend, as far as that happening right in my neighborhood,” Koeppe said during a break in her Tuesday morning jog through the park. “That’s pretty scary.”
Others visiting the park Tuesday were surprised to hear about any drug activity. They said the park, which surrounds a 7-acre fishing lake, is frequently used by children.
“You’ve got to be careful nowadays, I guess,” said Charlotte Aschenbrenner, of Lawrence, who was caring for three children in the park Tuesday. “I never thought you’d run into something like that in the woods.”
David Williams, principal of Prairie Park School, said school workers are always careful about the park’s wooded area adjacent to school property.
“It certainly heightens our awareness and reminds us about always being vigilant about safety,” he said.
Only three meth lab-related seizures were reported in Douglas County last year, according to Kansas Bureau of Investigation statistics. No seizures in the county have been reported to the KBI so far this year, according to state records.