The main entrance of Shawnee Mission Park at 79th Street and Renner is under a redesign intended to enhance gathering spaces and improve traffic flow into the park.
The open space at the main entrance to the park used to be the site of the John Barkley Visitor Center, a building that also housed park police. That center has since been demolished, and visitor and police services are in a different building. However, the space has retained the name of John Barkley Plaza.
Staff with the Johnson County Park and Recreation District said the $1.3 million project will provide parking, seating and shade for patrons to gather and meet, and create a memorial to Barkley, who established the county park system and was the first parks superintendent for JCPRD.
Megan Garrett, project manager for the district, said the intent is to enhance gathering spaces for visitors when they arrive at the park.
“Right now, a lot of people use that front parking area to meet their friends,” Garrett said. “It’s often where people meet to go for a bike ride or go for a run or take a walk. We see those interactions happening, and so we knew that this was a key gathering place for people to start their activity for the day.”
Here’s a close-up look at design plans for the John Barkley Plaza:
Bill Maasen, superintendent of parks and golf courses, said the existing split entry at the main entrance to the park — where drivers meet a stop sign sign and must decide if they will turn north or south into the park — may create some traffic issues, as the park receives about 2 million visitors a year.
“We’re really taking the existing landscape and complementing it,” Maasen said. “It’s not a wholesale change. We’re really taking advantage of the existing tree cover. We really want to make sure that our trees survive this redesign, because that’s one of the key features of this area.”
The new design directs drivers north toward the visitor center, without stopping, but drivers can still turn south as a secondary option. The 13 parking spaces immediately past the main entrance will be removed with the redesign.
“The flow is going to change dramatically,” Garrett said. “It’s going to open up the entry a lot.”
The entry design and construction costs are covered by the district’s capital improvement fund. Lenexa, Shawnee and the park district are sharing costs for installing the traffic signal.
The primary design consultant is Confluence Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri. The structural engineer is Bob D. Campbell & Co. of Kansas City, Missouri. The civil engineer is Wilson & Company of Kansas City, Missouri. The architect is PGAV Architects in Westwood.
Combes Construction LLC of Bucyrus, Kansas will lead construction of the new design. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2020.