Inside JCPRD: Looking back – and ahead

New inclusive playground at Shawnee Mission Park

By David Markham

Let me be one of the first to welcome you to a new year and a new decade!

For 2020, the Johnson County Park and Recreation District has partnered with the Shawnee Post to bring you this new weekly column. Our hope is to keep you informed about happenings in your park district, show the range of our offerings, and perhaps explore some issues along the way.

Let me start by briefly introducing myself. My title is communications specialist, and I’m a 25+ year veteran of JCPRD. If you’ve paged through or read the articles in the My JCPRD Activities catalog, read stories in the monthly Explore JCPRD enewsletter, or read a JCPRD news release or seen a media story that has resulted from them, you’ve probably seen some of my work.

Other primary writers of this column I’ll be trading off with are: Producing Artistic Director, Theatre in the Park, and Fine & Performing Arts Manager Tim Bair (is that a title or what?), who will write about happenings in the world of arts; while on the first Wednesday of each month Johnson County Museum Curator of Interpretation Andrew Gustafson will be running excerpts of a blog he writes.

Ribbon Cutting at Meadowbrook Park

The year just past was an eventful one for JCPRD. Among other accomplishments, in 2019 our agency: received accreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (it’s a nice accompaniment to the prestigious National Gold Medal Award we picked up in 2017!); opened the much-anticipated Meadowbrook Park and Clubhouse; more than doubled our Children’s Services Department by adding Out of School Time programs at 36 schools in the Olathe School District; celebrated 50 years of Theatre in the Park and 40 years of Kansas City Corporate Challenge; opened a new inclusive playground in Shawnee Mission Park; welcomed former Deputy Director Jeff Stewart as our new executive director; and began operation of the new Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center.

JCPRD has a lot of great things to look forward to in 2020. No formal dates or ribbon cuttings have been set, but construction is wrapping up on the Russell and Helen Means Observation Tower at Kill Creek Park, Arthur and Betty Verhaeghe Park on the Coffee Creek Streamway Trail, and the extension of the Kill Creek Streamway trail to 143rd St.

Construction of the first phase of development of the new Cedar Niles Park west of Olathe is expected to begin in early 2020 and open late in the year.

On the programming side, JCPRD is looking forward to: the Mill Creek Activity Center and the Roeland Park Community Center being part of the Silver Sneakers® network; the Jan. 9 launch of Culture After Dark at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center on the second Thursday of each month; the launch of a new public art program; and the start of a new Kill Creek Park Triathlon on Aug. 15.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2020!