The public is invited to take part in two ribbon cutting events for new JCPRD facilities planned for mid- and late October. These include an Oct. 17 ribbon cutting for Arthur and Betty Verhaeghe Park, and an Oct. 24 ribbon cutting for the Russell and Helen Means Observation Tower in Kill Creek Park.
Both facilities quietly opened for public use this summer while scheduling of ribbon cutting events was delayed by COVID-19. Both events will begin at 10 a.m. on their respective dates, and will require masks and social distancing. The short ceremonies will include remarks from local, county, and JCPRD officials, followed by greet, mix, and mingle opportunities.
Arthur and Betty Verhaeghe Park
is located at 11401 W 167th St., Overland Park. The Verhaeghe family donated 40 acres of land at the site, which includes the 11-acre developed area. The park includes a farm-themed playground, a picnic shelter, drinking fountain, parking, a large open play field, and a portable restroom. The park also serves as an access point for the Coffee Creek Streamway Park, which opened in October 2017 and currently stretches 3.4 miles from a western access near Shelters 9 and 10 in Heritage Park, to Switzer Road. The new park sits near the midway point of the streamway trail.
The farm-themed playground was specifically requested by the Verhaeghe family to honor their nearly 100-year history of farming and raising bedding plants in the area.
“Our grandfather came to this area in 1919 and raised and sold bedding plants in hot beds to the community and several stores in the area,” said Mel Verhaeghe, son of Arthur and Betty. “They also raised and sold many vegetables like potatoes, asparagus, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, and tomatoes locally and at the Kansas City farmer's market. The gardening was a key to the success of the Verhaeghe family.”
Here are directions to the park: from the 159th Street exit of US-69 Highway, go west to Switzer Road. Turn south (left) and go to 165th Street. Then proceed west to Ballentine, south to 167th Street, and west to the park entrance.
The Russell and Helen Means Observation Tower is located west of the main park entrance in Kill Creek Park
, 11670 Homestead Lane, Olathe. The tower is made of structural steel surrounding a precast concrete elevator shaft, which provides access to the top level. There are four levels that the elevator can stop at, including the upper observation deck, which is 44 feet 7 inches above the ground. The full height of the tower is 58 feet. The tower has heavy-duty galvanized steel screening around it, with occasional openings visitors can look through. The tower also has stairs to the top. Construction on the structure began in late 2018. The tower is located just east of where the Means’ house previously stood.
Russell and Helen Means were the previous landowners of 639 acres of the now 897-acre Kill Creek Park property. They donated 355 acres, provided an installment purchase agreement for the acquisition of the remaining 284 acres, and willed assets now valued at approximately $1 million from their estates for improvements at the park to benefit the public. That funding was used as a portion of the cost of construction of the observation tower.
“When asked about the observation tower, I knew the right decision was to tear down the house and build the tower so people could view and appreciate what my parents built and enjoyed,” said Judy Short, daughter of Russell and Helen. “I know my parents are smiling down at the observation tower and watching people enjoy the beautiful view.”
The tower affords approximately 270-degree views from the southeast, all the way around the west, and then back to the north and northeast. Visitors will get great views of Kill Creek Park Lake, and parts of the park’s remnant prairie. When conditions are right, keen-eyed observers may even be able to see buildings on the hill of the University of Kansas’ campus in Lawrence, and the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
Kill Creek Park opened in 2001.