Mark Taylor
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Johnson County Commissioners approved a property exchange that will deed the 40-acre Stanley Nature Park over to the Blue Valley School District.
In return, the school district will give the county two Stilwell properties that total 60 acres.
The school district approached the county parks department about acquiring Stanley Nature Park in 2009 for the expansion of the Blue Valley High School campus.
Blue Valley plans to use the park land for additional parking and expanded athletic facilities.
Mike Meadors, county parks director, said his department doesn’t have the resources to adequately maintain Stanley Nature Park.
“I believe the Blue Valley School District will be a better steward of that property than we have,” he said
Several neighboring residents and park users spoke out against the land exchange.
Bob McNay, Stanley, asked commissioners to commit to a opening a new park before Blue Valley “turns a single shovel of dirt” on the campus expansion.
He reminded commissioners of Big Bull Park in Edgerton, which has not been developed since the county purchased the property in 1998.
“The question is trust, gentleman,” McNay said.
Jerry Erding, Stilwell, agreed.
“We have over 4,000 undeveloped park acres right now, and we’re going to trade developed for undeveloped,” he said. “That doesn’t seem very logical.”
Other residents raised concerns about the appraised value of the properties.
Commissioners debated the land exchange at length — and considered delaying its decision for a week — before voting to approve the transaction.
Commissioner David Lindstrom, who represents the district where Stanley Nature Park is located, said the park has limited access and is difficult for the county to maintain.
He said he believed the land was better suited to the school district’s needs.
“While there is a perception of competing interests,” Lindstrom said, “it is the overall impact and the benefit to the community that has been weighing on my mind and guides me during the deliberations.”
Stanley Nature Park — which was purchased in 1969 — is located at 6295 W. 159th St.
The other two properties are located at 175th and Nall streets and at 16900 Mission Rd.