Douglas County Commission to consider accepting grant to help fund Wells Overlook accessibility project

photo by: Chris Conde

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

Douglas County may soon begin work on the construction of a new accessible viewing platform and picnic shelter at Wells Overlook Park.

The County Commission during its meeting on Wednesday will consider approving the acceptance of a federal grant worth up to $44,790 to fund part of the project.

In March 2019, the commissioners approved a plan to construct a viewing platform compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility guidelines at the site, which is on County Route 458 just east of U.S. Highway 59.

The new platform would be constructed near the northernmost curve on the park’s access drive, about 35 feet lower in elevation than the top of the hill where the park’s observation tower is located. The project also includes the construction of a separate ADA-accessible picnic shelter south of the current parking area.

As part of the project, the county applied for a federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, which is authorized by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Keith Browning, county engineer and director of public works, told the commissioners in a memo that the county received the project agreement documents from the department on Jan. 2 and they must be signed and returned.

If approved on Wednesday, county staff will begin work for the project “immediately” by removing trees from the site. County staff will also perform grading and asphalt paving at the site, according to the memo.

Karrey Britt, a spokeswoman for the county, said county staff expected the project to cost about $103,000. After the grant is applied, county funds will cover the remaining costs, she said.

The Dirt Works Studio, which is part of the University of Kansas’ School of Architecture and Design, will design and construct the viewing platform and picnic shelter as spring and fall semester projects. Britt said the viewing platform was expected to be finished by the end of May and the picnic shelter was expected to be done by the end of December.

Additional work for the project, including planting native prairie vegetation at the site, may take about three years, she said.

Before the regular meeting, the commissioners will receive an update from representatives for the Lawrence Community Shelter. The discussion will take place during a work session, which means no action will be taken.

In its 2020 budget, the county provided $296,000 of direct funding support to the shelter, which included $181,000 of one-time supplemental funding.

Renee Kuhl, executive director for the shelter, is expected to update the County Commission on the organization’s work since she took over the position in September 2019. Additionally, the center’s board and staff are expected to provide an update on the shelter’s efforts to secure new funding sources and provide information regarding its 2020 budget.

The County Commission will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. Full agendas are available online at douglascountyks.org.


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