There are a number of individuals in Lawrence who do a number of relatively small things that help make Lawrence a special place. These individuals do not seek publicity but they are deeply interested in the welfare of the community and in their various ways, make a significant, meaningful and positive difference in Lawrence.
Last Friday several hundred residents gathered at the city’s newest park, the Sandra J. Shaw Community Health Park, just north of the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, for the opening of the park, which features a wide, paved trail around an old pond that played an interesting role in Lawrence’s earlier years. The late Shaw was director of Bert Nash for 22 years.
Many individuals eventually played a significant role in the development of the eight-acre park, but it was local developer John McGrew who had the vision and drive to bring his dream to a reality.
McGrew had grown up in the area, had fished in the pond and believed the pretty and serene area would be an ideal asset adjacent to the Bert Nash facility and Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
McGrew had a willing helper and supporter, David Johnson, Bert Nash CEO, who encouraged the Bert Nash board to donate the site to Lawrence.
It’s a winning project in every way!
The Sandra Shaw Park is the latest project of McGrew’s that shows his deep interest in enjoying and appreciating “the outside for a better inside.”
He worked closely with the late Bob Billings in the creation and development of the Alvamar project, the Conrad & Viola McGrew Nature Preserve located north of West 15th Street, the Pat Dawson Billings Nature Area, south of Crossgate, and the Kanza Southwind Nature Preserve, immediately south of 27th Street on Wildflower Drive.
Many local residents have been engaged in these projects, but it has been McGrew who has had the vision and dream. He started the “Outside for a Better Inside” foundation, which encourages activities and spaces that promote good mental and physical health and help prevent disease.
He treasures outside activities and nothing brings a smile to his face any quicker than thinking about a father introducing fishing to a son or daughter. “Green space” and the outside mean so much to McGrew.
Most Lawrence residents have no idea about the history surrounding the Sandra Shaw Park. This area was the location of a large brick factory and a zoo that once had bears, monkeys, a wolf, a cougar and a fenced alligator pen.
The park site belonged to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and they agreed to sell when they moved to a different location. As noted above, many individuals, organizations and generous individuals played a significant role in putting this effort together. It was a collaborative effort.
Lawrence is a good city with a proud past and to a great degree this was accomplished by the efforts, courage and vision of people like McGrew, his father and hundreds and thousands of others. Their driving interest and commitment was to do what was best for Lawrence, to help make Lawrence a better town. They didn’t initiate these actions to line their own pockets, but they knew if Lawrence could grow in size and excellence, they, in turn, as well as the whole town, would benefit.
Lawrence, as well as Kansas University, has the very real opportunity to become a truly distinguished city in so many ways, but it will require the efforts, commitment and vision of the John McGrews, who in their own way add so much to the specialness of Lawrence.