|Property Donation Proposal Presented to JCPRD Board|
An area resident has presented a proposal to give the Johnson County Park and Recreation District use of slightly more than 60 acres to build a streamway park along a portion of Camp Branch Creek. If realized, this would give the agency an opportunity to preserve a pristine natural area in southeast Johnson County.
During the District Board’s April 16 regular meeting, a proposed agreement for the land was presented by Kenny Baum, Chairman of the George K. Baum & Co. investment banking company, and his attorney, Fred Logan. As proposed, Baum would donate approximately 25 acres and grant the District a conservation easement on an additional 35 acres. A third component would be a trail easement which would allow the district to build a trail approximately three-quarters of a mile in length across the two properties mentioned above as well as an additional quarter mile across a third property Baum will continue to own.
The property in question is located just west of Mission Road between 167th and 175th streets. The District already owns an additional 237 acres to the south as a future park location.
No formal action was sought or taken during the April 16 meeting and Logan said he anticipated returning during a later Board meeting to formalize the agreement.
Superintendent of Parks and Golf Courses Bill Maasen said the next step will be for staff to negotiate a final agreement with Baum and his representatives.
“The presentation had to do with the intent to donate,” Maasen explained. “The Board will have to act later on to approve an agreement.”
If the proposal is realized and the trail is built, the District’s plan would be for it to eventually connect with the agency’s existing two miles of trail in the Blue River Streamway Park to the north, but this will require the future acquisition of connecting property from other property owners, Maasen said.
Under the submitted proposal, development on the land being donated outright would be limited to the construction of bike or horse trails on routes agreed to by both parties, as well as a parking lot and trailhead near 175th Street.
As stated in the proposal, the conservation easement property “shall remain private property that is held at its present state in perpetuity.” The agreement would also allow the development of public trails on the property and grant Baum and his successors free use of the property in manners consistent with prohibitions contained elsewhere in the proposal.
“The environmental importance of this area simply can’t be overstated,” Logan said during his comments before the Board.
He quoted a document from Patti Banks Associates which calls the property “one of the highest concentrations of high-quality natural resources in Johnson County.”
Logan said Baum first started considering how to preserve this area last summer.
Baum told the Board he grew up near 58th and Pennsylvania in Kansas City as a “city boy.” Through youth camp in upper Michigan and other experiences, he developed an appreciation for the outdoors. When he started earning money, he began buying land.
“I came out here and bought 40 acres of really terrible land - it had a creek going through it, it had trees and people out there called it ‘the lost 40 acres.’ There was nothing good about it except the trees were gorgeous,” Baum said.
Eventually, he accumulated 640 acres in the area. Of this land, 330 acres are already in a conservation easement with the Nature Conservancy.
“It isn’t good for very much as far as development, but it is more of what we need in parts of the county,” Baum told the Board. “We’re here to talk about how can we preserve these wild areas. There are some people who look at it and say ‘it’s junk,’ but there are some people when, they see this kind of thing, they get an enlightenment in their spirit. These are the people who we want to have the privilege of walking across it and seeing it.”
Baum said the land includes trees which are 400 years old and limestone cliffs along the Blue River.
In his proposal, he also states the property includes two emergent wetland communities, a unique prairie glade, one of the last intact stream systems in the county, and sycamore-black walnut riparian and oak-hickory woods, as well as wildlife habitats.
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For more information, contact:
Superintendent of Parks and Golf Courses Bill Maasen (913) 909-3032
Community Relations Manager Randy Knight (913) 909-3334