City Commission OKs dam project that could include plaza and kayaking area along river

photo by: Recreation Engineering and Planning/City of Lawrence

The draft concept sketch for a recreational area along the south bank of the Kansas River.

City leaders approved a dam and riverbank maintenance project that could also lead to the addition of public access points, a terraced plaza and whitewater features to the Kansas River.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to approve a $1.24 million contract for the project, which will be located near the dam and the north entrance to downtown Lawrence. The project will repair holes in the dam, stabilize the riverbank and design potential recreational components and access points to the river, including connections to the Lawrence Loop, the city’s trail system.

Mayor Lisa Larsen said that the recreational aspects of the project were not only great for the residents of Lawrence but could also lead to economic development in the downtown. She said the project’s concept represented outside-the-box thinking, which was important in the face of changes in the retail industry.

“(It’s) focusing on this idea that we can work on our recreational aspect of our downtown as well as throughout our loop area, that that’s going to draw on some economic development that I don’t think we realize yet,” Larsen said. “And I think it’s an extremely important tool that we develop this.”

The city is legally responsible for maintenance for the dam and owns the land under Abe & Jake’s Landing and the adjacent Riverfront Plaza building, where the riverbank is eroding and needs to be stabilized. The commission voted to move forward with a contract with TSP Environmental that calls for about $574,000 for dam repairs, $600,000 for riverbank stabilization and $62,000 in engineering costs for the potential recreational improvements, according to a city staff memo to the commission.

photo by: Ashley Hocking

The proposed site for a Kansas River recreation area is located on the south bank of the river, shown here on Nov. 9, 2018.

Instead of rebuilding the existing retaining wall along the riverbank, conceptual plans call for stabilizing the bank by building a terraced stone plaza that includes river entry points for boats and kayaks. The stone structure creates a public gathering place on the bank and extends slightly into the river, helping create pools and whitewater for kayaking and other water activities.

The city has $1 million budgeted to repair the holes in the dam and another $1 million to stabilize the riverbank. The city does not have any additional money budgeted toward a recreational aspect, but some components of the project could potentially be funded by the state and grants.

Representatives from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism told the commission that they are interested in helping fund components of the project that would improve boating and fishing access, and that some of the costs could be offset by U.S. Coast Guard and other grants.

Plans for construction of the recreational and access features would come to the commission for consideration at a later date, according to the memo. Specifically, once plans for the project are approved and final costs determined, city staff would negotiate a change order with TSP for the construction of the recreational components, which would then need to be approved by the commission.


City Commission Meeting 03/05/19


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.