Bids will be let and construction should begin in 2017 at Big Bull Creek Park. Graphic courtesy of JCPRD

Members of the Johnson County Park and Recreation Board were updated on phase 1 of Big Bull Creek Park, near Edgerton, at a special board meeting on Aug. 8.
The 2000 acre park was purchased with a bond issue about 15 years ago.
Cliff Middleton, planning and development manager for JCPRD said the project should be bid this Fall, and construction is expected to begin in January; weather permitting, the work could be completed by October, 2017.
He expects Big Bull Creek to be a great recreational facility not only for SW Johnson County but will also have features to draw from the north and central area.
“It will be a great recreational facilityfor all of Johnson County,” he said. “It’s just going to be a beautiful park.”
RDG Planning and Design was awarded a contract in May for the Sunflower entry area. With a budget of about $3.7 million, the current project estimate came in at about $28,000 over budget, and staff notes the project will be monitored to insure costs remain within budget.
Phase 1 would include an activity area on Sunflower Road to include a destination nature playground, trails, picnic shelters, trail connection to Martin Creek Park, conversion of agricultural fields to native plants and a group camp area on 213th.
In May, SFS Architecture was awarded the design contract for a maintenance shop/ park police substation. The project is estimated to cost $2.1 million. Plans include shop work and office space, maintenance yard, equipment and material storage area, locker rooms, public space, break room and a parking area to serve both the building and future disc golf course.
Both projects will be funded through debt financing later this year.
A public hearing was held Feb. 22 at New Century Fieldhouse to discuss the park’s master plan.
Because Edgerton is adjacent to the west side of the park, “This park has the opportunity to act like a large backyard for the residents and businesses of Edgerton,” according to the master plan.
Because of the park’s size, it was organized into several zones of about 500 acres.
“Each zone will aim to be at least 500 contiguous acres in size, with no paved roads, lighting, or buildings inside the perimeter,” the plan stated. Paved and soft trails will be only on the zone edges. Planned areas include prairie habitat, savanna habitat, forest habitat and core habitat.
Active recreation will be largely determined by access from Interstate 35 and US 56 Highway.
North of 199th Street activities may include disc golf course, fishing pond, open air shelters, a large four-season rental pavilion that would accommodate 200 people, a dog park, glampground (glamourous camping), RV campground, nature playground, and a tent campground.
Mildale Farm will retain its current use as a rental facility.
The proposed Sunflower entry in the Center Zone, across from Martin Creek Park, includes a Sunflower Pavillion for 200 users, welcome kiosk, open air shelters, destination playground, loop trails and a Weber Farm Overlook. Building remnants of the original Weber Farm will be removed, but the plan recommends two concrete silos be retained as unique landmarks. An overlook of surrounding landscape is also planned for the farm site.
South of 199th, the plan calls for passive use including: trail use, creek access, and some group camping. Auto traffic will be limited.
At the many trails, signs will be placed to provide information, park map, amenity locations, drinking water and a shade structure. Trails will be both hard and soft surface. There will also be clearly designated equestrian trails and forested areas.
The 2000 acres was purchased about 15 years ago but has remained nearly off-limits and undeveloped for public use.
The park property has not been without controversy.
In October 2012, Edgerton city officials went thru the condemnation process to purchase about 15 acres from Johnson County Parks and Recreation, which had originally been purchased in 1998 with $6 million in bond debt.
The condemnation was necessary upon the advice of the JCPRD’s legal counsel. Edgerton ended up paying $196,000 for 11 acres. Because JCPRD had originally purchased the property with a bond issue, the money could only be used to pay down debt or purchase replacement property.
At that time, park department officials said there was not enough revenue to develop the park, or to start construction.
Johnson County Park and Recreation District is the only Special Park District in Kansas. The Kansas Legislature established statutes to allow creation of Johnson County Park District in 1953, in response to county citizens’ pleas to have a means to preserve open space in the face of the rapid development following World War II.