Twenty years ago the Main Street Corridor Plan proposed this holding pond, just west of Cedar Niles on 175th, be landscaped as a “gateway” to Gardner complete with a visitor information center, wagon sculpture and limestone pylons. Seeking to play on the community’s trail history, the plan said the area provided an interpretive opportunity to explore the Oregon and Santa Fe trails and should be dubbed “The River Crossing.” A frontage road and small park was also planned for the area. The plans never materialized. Gardner recently received an $112,000 grant to update their plans with a vision leading into 2035. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz

What a difference almost two decades make, but also how some things remain unchanged.
Nearly 20 years ago, making Gardner’s downtown more pedestrian friendly, the city’s gateways more visually appealing, encouraging downtown revitalization thru investment and easing traffic flow were top concerns.
According to the Summary of Gardner’s proposed new Main Street Corridor Plan, they still are.
In 2000, Gardner approved a Main Street Corridor Plan saying that one of most significant regional influences then would be the County Arterial Road Network Plan.
Adopted in 1999, the CARNP plan indicated 175th would be a major arterial roadway including a north/south street about five miles west of downtown Gardner, generally aligned with Edgerton Road, and eventually transforming into a freeway linking –I 35 and K-10. There were also plans for an interchange at I-35 and Moonlight.
However, although the county still uses CARNP to guide improvements for arterial roads, plans for a southern east/west outer loop were dropped.
“About 10 years ago the county looked at a new route connecting this area with Missouri, but opted not to adopt any route,” said Sharon Watson, county director of public affairs. “So there is no connection south of 135th street between Missouri and Johnson County, and no connection is planned.”
Currently Gardner is preparing to adopt new a Main Street Corridor Plan, and much has changed during the last 16 years.
Although there are no longer plans for a direct “outer loop” route to Missouri, traffic counts have continued to increase as warehouses are built. The build out of the Edgerton intermodal has also changed traffic patterns as traffic going south through Gardner has increased.
Traffic counts
In 2000, traffic volume along Main Street was about 20,000 vehicles near 175th and I 35, and the 2000 report said there would be little change in traffic travelling thru Gardner (towards Edgerton.)
However, by 2014, vehicle traffic count was:
nearly 28,000 at 175th and New Century with815 HCT (Heavy Commercial Truck;
and between Gardner and Edgerton; 4,390 with 245 HCT.
With the advent of KCI Logistics Edgerton intermodal, traffic travelling thru Gardner continues to increase.
Downtown parking
The 2000 corridor plan suggested a center left turn lane was needed on Main (Old 56 Hwy).
“In other words, the configuration of Main Street should have an odd number of lanes, either three or five,” according to the report. Traffic on Main Street could be reconfigured to three lanes to allow for the introduction of on-street parking in some areas.
The 2000 Main Street Corridor Plan also stressed the necessity of adequate parking downtown and suggested the city acquire adjacent land from properties at the back of the Main Street blocks.
“The need to provide on-street parking, in addition to public parking lots, is crucial to the economic success of Downtown and Midtown businesses and facilitates the walk-in commercial activity vital to a pedestrian streetscape environment,” the report says.
Gardner Gateway
Visioning plans in 2000 indicated the need for an entry marker or gateway at I-35 on 175th; promotion of a pedestrian-friendly environment; establishing a unifying theme and identifying points of interest; and incorporating a visually enhancing landscape.
Landscaping for the gateway included the use of limestone pylons and limestone monuments, along with a wagon sculpture providing an interpretive arena for the California and Oregon trails, and on the north side of 56 Hwy, a “River Crossing” utilizing the detention pond (currently southwest of the KDOT facility visible from 175th) as an elaborate water feature incorporating bronze sculptures of covered wagons crossing a river. What is now still a holding pond would have been used as a small park.
Further playing on Gardner’s history, the vision plan included theme based sculptures including fur traders, miners, wagon masters, Indians, mules and oxen along US 56, with symbolism in landscape treatment telling the story of the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails.