Burcham Park and the area around it will be one to keep an eye on in the near future.
As we've previously reported, the city's utilities department has a pair of multimillion dollar projects that will go through the park, near Second and Indiana streets close to the Kansas River. The first project is a new water intake pipe to feed the nearby Kaw Water Treatment plant with more river water. The second project is a new water line that will cross the Kansas River and provide a second supply of water to the North Lawrence area.
Work on both of those projects is expected to start by the end of the year, and will cause portions of the park to be closed, in some cases into next summer. In particular, Parks and Recreation officials soon will remove the playground equipment from the park to accommodate construction. But my understanding is that officials will look for a new area in the park to eventually replace the equipment.
Longer term, development in the area could get more interesting. If you remember, the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center has purchased the former VFW property that is adjacent to Burcham Park. That property includes a five- to six-acre pond that is a nice piece of tranquility, but is on private property and difficult to access.
Parks and Recreation leaders, however, have confirmed that Bert Nash officials and leaders of the Outside for a Better Inside group have approached the city about donating the pond to the city for future use as a park. (Bert Nash would keep the rest of the property to use for a possible expansion of facilities in the future.)
The Outside for a Better Inside Group — led by local real estate executive John McGrew — would like to see a trail developed around the pond to promote outdoor activity.
Parks and Recreation officials told me they have an interest in the project, but at the moment, they have more interest than money. But it is the type of project that could fare well in grant competitions. Mark Hecker, assistant director with Parks and Recreation, said the city would like to try to win a couple of grants. That would allow for a trail to be built around the pond, and also for an existing trail between Burcham Park and Constant Park to be significantly improved.
For those of you who slept through the class on Lawrence park names, Constant Park is the largely unimproved park near Sixth and Tennessee streets along the Kansas River. Burcham and Constant are connected by a dirt trail that runs through the woods and along the Kansas River. A new trail could be a regular, improved, concrete trail. I guess since it would be along the river, we could promote it as a riverwalk, if we so desired.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, the project does have several hurdles to clear. When I checked, there still weren't cost estimates for the project. Plus, city commissioners still haven't signed off on the concept, and importantly, the city would have to compete with other projects to win grant money.
"It is a really cool area, if you can get into it," Hecker said "It is one of those projects that may never happen, or it may start to gain some momentum real soon."
If I've whetted your appetite to talk about parks in Lawrence, mark your calendars for 2 p.m. on Sunday. A group of people will gather at Sesquicentennial Point to socialize and talk about the future of the Point. What's that? Where is the Point? Some of you really did sleep through the class on Lawrence parks. Sesquicentennial Point is below the Clinton Lake Dam. Its entrance is off of Eeast 902 Road, across the street from the city's off-leash dog park.
The area is a beautiful spot on a high piece of ground, but it is largely unimproved except for a stone walkway that commemorates various families, businesses and organizations that played a role in the city's first 150 years. Champions of the point, led by longtime teacher and historian Clenece Hills, always are looking or more groups to donated funds to complete that walkway. Long-term plans have called for an amphitheater at the site.
That project still seems a good distance away. Parks and recreation officials told me their view continues to be that future development at the point will be difficult to do until more infrastructure is in place. That means, water, sewer, and better road access.
"I've also heard some people question if we are going to have an amphitheater whether there is a better location for it in town, like perhaps on the Lied Center property," said Ernie Shaw, the city's leader of the parks and recreation department. "If we get serious about an amphitheater, this is just one location to consider."