County Commission meeting reveals master plan for parks and rec

To emphasize the approval and desired collaboration with the city of Topeka, Mayor Wolgast attended the commissioner meeting. Wolgast led the pledge of allegiance as well as making a comment pertaining to the parks and recreation plans. 

All community seats were filled on the morning of June 19, 2014 to observe the County Commissioner meeting. The top item on the agenda for both commissioner and community discussion was the newly revealed master plan for the Shawnee County Parks and Recreation department.

Leon Younger, president of PROS Consulting, and John Knight, director of Shawnee County Parks and Recreation, presented the plan to the commissioners. The plan is a result of more than a year of planning, 21 community meetings and countless hours of evaluation on how to improve the county’s parks and recreational opportunities for the community.More than $120,000 was spent collecting data on public opinion.

County Commissioner Bob Archer commented that the unveiling could not have come at a better time.

“We are in the Renaissance as the community,” said Archer.

The plans have far reaching impacts throughout many aspects of the county. Features of the key recommendations include land, facilities, programs provided by parks and rec, finance and operations. Although diversified, each of the sections of the plans focuses heavily on the community and surrounding areas. 

Younger posed a question to the commissioners after the presentation.

“You have as much advocacy in the community…how are you going to react to it?” asked Younger.

Also emphasized by Younger during the presentation and subsequent comments was the incredible amount of support from the community during the entire process.

Younger is the founder of PROS consulting and recipient of the National Park and Recreation Association’s Distinguished Professional Award in 1994. He has had success in his 29 years of parks and recreation services.

After the presentation of the master plan, Archer opened the discussion back up to community members present that morning. One of those to speak was Mayor Larry Wolgast.

“This is exciting to see the possibilities,” said Wolgast. “I know there are challenges, but from city’s perspective, we are interested and we follow more closely than you think.”

Wolgast represented the city council and emphasized the joint effort needed in order to implement the changes to Shawnee County Parks and Recreation.

“We need to be a unit working together and we have that relationship,” said Wolgast. “We look forward to working on it with you.”

The plan includes a balanced support and upkeep of all park types throughout the county, a connection of the trail systems for a final outcome of 150 miles of finished and maintained trails and addressing the needs of an aquatic community center to replace the closed Crestwood center. The continued operation of the Forbes Golf Course was also in the provisions.

County Commissioner Kevin Cook pointed out the importance of involvement.

 “There is so much to do in the community, there should be no reason we should sit at home,” said Cook.