As part of prairie management efforts, Johnson County Park & Recreation District officials plan to conduct a controlled burn on the morning of Thursday, April 9, at a 60-acre prairie remnant located within the 900-acre Cedar Niles future park site west of Olathe. The burn is expected to begin about 9 a.m. near 26980 West 127th Street, located just east of 127th and Moonlight within the Cedar Niles future park site. Plans for this controlled burn are highly weather dependent and are affected by a number of factors including relative humidity, wind speed and direction, fuel moisture and air temperature. Prior to settlement, much of America’s great plains were kept to a prairie ecosystem primarily by fires that were started naturally by lightning. These fires raced across the prairies and killed most trees. After settlement, fires were suppressed, and trees and other woody plants invaded what were formerly grasslands. Even though most of the above-ground parts of the plants burn, prairie plants are not killed by fire because they store food in their massive root systems. Experts believe prescribed fire as a management tool has many benefits to the prairie, including producing plants that flower more, produce more seed, and are more robust; lengthening the growing season for native plants and shortening it for invading weeds; stimulating microbial activity in the soil through the nutrients in ash; formation of a dense prairie sod that prevents invading seedlings from germinating; and reducing maintenance costs compared to mowing and herbicides. The Cedar Niles burn will involve JCPRD maintenance staff from Heritage, Shawnee Mission, Mill Creek Streamway, and Kill Creek parks. The Cedar Niles property, which was master planned in 2008 but is awaiting development funds, sprawls in a largely linear manner and stretches nearly two miles between 119th and 135th streets.
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