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Amos Lawrence Park - a name and a vision for Lawrence

Historical Image

Historical Image by Lawrence Morgan

Amos Lawrence Park

Building on the best of the past, yet looking towards the future

The former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant is now being made into a business park. I think it needs a new name and - equally important - a new vision. A much better name than those which have been proposed for this park would be "Amos Lawrence Park."

It's time to have a vision for this park which would incorporate the city's possibilities and that of surrounding cities as well. The vision needs to incorporate what this park could become in conjunction with other parts of Lawrence and Douglas County.

Pedestrian / bicycling trail and a place for gathering

A pedestrian/bicycling trail should lead from the park to downtown Lawrence and to the circular path around the university. This could be adjacent to the 19th Street entrance but should be separate, and not part of, the roadway. There should also be a trail leading from the park to Baldwin City and Ottawa, and eventually to Eudora, DeSoto and Kansas City. All of these trails would be landscaped with Kansas plants, and would be part of the Douglas County and Johnson County trail and park systems.

There should be places to sit and to have coffee, tea or a meal. Trees and flowers throughout the park would be a welcome break from the summer's sun. Some of these things are shown on the master plan but not in detail, and not extending beyond the park itself.

Healthy food would be provided so that persons, and visitors, could have lunch there. In addition to take-out foods, there is a strong possibility that a Whole Foods or Trader Joes would work well in the park. Whole Foods, for example, is now building smaller stores with a live sandwich, meats and seafood department.

Could there be anything better than not only to have your food at the park, but also to be able to come on your bike or in the car to Whole Foods, for example, for your grocery shopping. In the spring, summer and fall you could come via the path on bicycle or as a pedestrian to the park. If you are on the way to work in Kansas City, or coming to Lawrence to enjoy yourself, you could stop off at Amos Lawrence Park to get provisions for your evening meal or an afternoon outing. This would mean you wouldn't have to make an extra trip for groceries later, but could instead enjoy yourself at home or outside in good weather.

Dillon's at 17th and Massachusetts St. should also be complimented for having made a strong investment in a part of town which before did not have a good grocery store. It is a good example of a company reinvesting in local businesses by completely remodeling the store, making it very up to date.

The trail and bus route should lead past Dillons to downtown, to the new library and then to the university. With this kind of public transportation, many people won't need to drive their cars to work - they can take the bike, walk, or ride the bus much of the year.

Several important things

This would symbolize several important things.

First, the name of the park itself. By naming the park the "Amos Lawrence Park," it shows the connection Lawrence has to the early east coast of the United States, at which time the nation had really just begun its long journey forward.

There would be a link to Lawrence, Massachusetts - another town also named by Amos Lawrence - which I think would be very important for this park, so that links between Lawrence and the east coast are well understood. Street names and place names (for gatherings, coffee, a meal) should be chosen based on the creative energies of the first people in Lawrence - from businessmen to teachers, homemakers to farmers and builders.

The path from the park to downtown, to Baldwin City, Ottawa, Eudora and DeSoto - and eventually Kansas City - offers ideal places in these towns for start ups. Many companies would prefer that their people work in smaller places, which are quiet - such as Baldwin City. They could get a lot more done than driving on 101 in the Bay Area for one to two hours each way even before they get started for the day.

All of these places would be linked by fiber cables - and the time to put them in is now, when 19th St. is ready to join Amos Lawrence Park - not later. This would make it clear that all parts of the city are linked together, not just some companies and organizations. All paths would be lit by LED lights at night.

Actually, fiber cables should be accessed by all businesses, so that people would get to know one another, as well as citizens from all of Douglas County, Franklin County and Kansas City. In Silicon Valley, for instance, many companies, as a result of such meetings, now share skills, talent and overlapping products. New companies locate in Silicon Valley just as a result of these meetings. The same thing could take place in Lawrence. Outdoor and indoor meetings should take place at least once every week.

The contributions of all Lawrence citizens should also be shown. By their being able to visit the park, both via the path, bus and by car, it would take on much more energy than by simply being a business park, of which there are already plenty in all parts of the United States, including Silicon Valley - where many business buildings and parks have plenty of buildings which remain empty. Much more is needed besides buildings and concrete if a space is going to become an idea-generation location.

Building on the best of the past, yet looking towards the future

"Building on the best of the past, yet looking towards the future." Both need to be incorporated into this park, and the surrounding pathways. It must, for example, include nature: Kansas is a very important part of the prairie and plains ecosystem. There should be plants, flowers and trees which reflect this aspect of life in Lawrence, available for all to see, including major landscaping all along the trial. This landscaping should under no circumstances be ignored. This should not be a park with no connection to the land. There should also be a fountain or fountains throughout the park, so that families and single persons would enjoy being there on the weekends as well as during the week.

And there should be the amenities that companies seek in Silicon Valley - basketball courts, for example, so that people who take breaks could have fun, and again, meet more people.

City College of Lawrence

There would also eventually need to be a City College of Lawrence, modeled to some extent on the City College of San Francisco as well as other signficant community colleges. The City College of San Francisco has 85,000 students of all ages - from those who are learning English, to people working towards an associate degree, to seniors who are catching up on areas they never had time for eariier in life.

And this, again, needs to be an attractive area so that people can meet each other and enjoy themselves - preferably outside in good weather. You never know who will meet each other - and perhaps have just the right idea for a new company. Steve Jobs quit the university because he felt he had better things to do with his time. You don't always need a university education to make things happen - and you can go back later when you have additional time and when you have explored life first.

City College of Lawrence should be linked not only with KU, but with Kansas State, Baker University, Ottawa University, and other similar colleges. We need an organization which will serve all people, at many different stages in their life.

Attractive signs in each city should point prominently to each educational institution in that city. There should be no doubt about it: Kansas is about education, at many different times throughout life!

Also, by putting a City College of Lawrence at Amos Lawrence Park, people from surrounding communities could be served at this location or in small branch colleges around town, each with a small library, computer space, and paying of bills without extra fees. These could be empty storefronts or small houses in various parts of the city.

The result will be a city of energy and innovation

What would eventually result would be a city of energy, excitement and innovation. This is the kind of city that companies want to relocate to, and that people of all ages - including seniors - would want to take part in. It would be an ideal energetic business community, including a City College for future growth at any time, and an ideal senior retirement location.

If this park is to mean anything in the future, it must have vitality, energy and innovation. The "Amos Lawrence Park" has all of these things and it would be a source destination for businesses of all kinds - not just "venture" businesses.

It would also be a break from much of what is taught at KU, which is too often just rote repeating of what the student thinks the teacher will want, instead of genuine creativity. (And I am a KU graduate; I have experienced that many times myself.)

There could be a strong set of courses - from 1 week to several months - with online classes combined with students working with one another - and many of these online classes are free.

And obviously the groundbreaking TED lectures.

Creative energy is what companies are looking for in the future. Lawrence, by naming this park "Amos Lawrence Park," meets these goals when they are combined with a city that people want to come to and live in for the rest of their lives.

Reply 6 comments from Johnlbrownjr Merrill Joshua Montgomery Lawrence Morgan The_big_b Kelly Babbit