The following is the Executive Summary of the Master Plan of the 1515-acre leased area at Clinton Lake received by the Lawrence City Commission at the Tuesday, July 2, 2003, Meeting. To view the entire plan, please stop by or call the Parks and Recreation Administrative office at:
1141 Massachusetts St.
or visit the Lawrence Public Library, Reference Desk.
. . . . we are charged with the duty of developing a plan that shall not only meet present, but future wants . . . . . to undertake important work in a half-hearted manner is the poorest economy, it is far better to plan comprehensively and broadly and proceed with actual construction leisurely than to attempt economy in the original plans.
In September, 2002, the consulting firm of Landplan Engineering was contracted to prepare a Master Plan for 1515 acres of park land situated east of the dam at Clinton Lake and leased to the City of Lawrence by the Corps of Engineers. This planning project is a response to the recommendations of the “Lawrence Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Master Plan,” finalized in 2000, and to the projected population growth of the City. The Comprehensive Master Plan envisioned the leased 1515 acres as a regional park, to serve recreation demands that cannot be easily served by other city parks. Thus, the leased park land is seen as an opportunity to accommodate Lawrence residents’ desires for increased recreational facilities as well as preserved open space. The overarching theme for the Master Plan is to think “long range” – in the range of 20 years – developing a plan that will accommodate both the active and passive uses currently taking place in the area, as well as designate and preserve specific areas for future growth of those activities. It is also recognized that recreational needs and styles change as do the demographics of any given population and so the Master Plan allows for some measure of planning flexibility and the addition of new recreational opportunities. Equally important is the preservation of large natural areas and open space for passive use and to maintain a healthy environment for plants and animals alike.
The planning project began with a review and analysis of the existing features and general uses of the proposed park site. Figure 1 following this section illustrates these features. The site inventory identifies major viewsheds, drainage patterns, limited excavation zones, surrounding uses, wetlands and vegetation, as well as current public use areas. In addition, three archeological sites are identified in the southern portion of the leasehold area. The Kansas City District of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Kansas Historic Preservation Offices have jointly concluded that no archeological survey nor further testing is required prior to implementation of the improvements proposed in the vicinity of sites 14DO22 and 14DO160. Neither is any further historic properties clearance required unless the plans change. However, several proposed locations for improvements as well as any new roadways will require archeological survey prior to any land disturbing activities. Furthermore, Archeological site 14DO23 must be tested for National Register eligibility prior to any development in this area.
The park is generally bounded to the north by the South Lawrence Trafficway (SLT) to the west by Clinton Lake, to the south by Country Road 458 and to the east by private land owners. The area between the emergency dam spillway and the northern park boundary is being considered for addition to the leased acreage, pending approval by the Corps of Engineers. The site is bisected by the Clinton Lake outlet channel and the Wakarusa River with a natural riparian corridor along its banks. Approximately 80 percent of the land is currently undeveloped. To the north of the river, southwest of the YSI complex is a small area of restored prairie grasses. Limited fishing access is located along the Clinton Lake outlet channel which feeds into the Wakarusa River. Picnic and playground facilities are located in Outlet Park just south of the outlet channel. Several wetland areas are identified on the site. At the northwest border, along the emergency spillway, the topography rises some 100′ from the central area of the park enabling views of Clinton Lake to the west and much of the park lands to the south. Even higher in elevation, the bluffs at the southwest edge of the park offer views that extend to the southern portion of Lawrence.
The area within the leased boundary currently supports a variety of sports and recreational facilities. Presently, the youth sports complex (YSI) in the northeast quadrant of the site includes 21 youth soccer fields, four youth ball fields, and five football fields. Just north of YSI is the Clinton Lake Softball Complex with four adult ball fields. Based on both current and projected needs for the next 20 to 25 years, Lawrence Parks and Recreation staff and local representatives from these sports groups have expressed a strong need to expand the current facilities in order to accommodate the fast growing youth sports programs in Lawrence, as well as to provide more adequate playing fields for older youth and adults. Eagle Bend Golf Course, situated in the middle of the park, occupies an area of approximately 250 acres. In addition to these sports facilities, an off-leash dog area currently occupies land in the northwest portion of the park. South of the golf course, in the middle of the 1515 acre site, Jayhawk Model Masters currently leases approximately 60 acres for a model airplane flight field. All uses with a current presence in the park are included in the Master Plan recommendations. In some cases, the locations or configurations have been adjusted to allow for better overall land-use, and vehicular and utility access.
The outcome of the master planning process is a plan that attempts to balance the community’s expressed needs for active recreation facilities and open natural areas for passive use and relaxation. The plan also seeks to take advantage of natural features and views to increase enjoyment for park users. New elements proposed for the park include sports areas such as new venues for youth and adult soccer (with YSI soccer fields converted to multi-use practice fields), a baseball complex, improved football fields, a reconfigured 4-plex for youth fast-pitch softball, additional adult soccer fields, a wheelchair softball field, and a field house with three gymnasiums. New practice fields are also planned and space is set aside for an additional public golf facility. Two new irrigation lakes are provided to aid with the care of existing and proposed sports fields.
To accommodate open space needs, the plan preserves the riparian corridor along the Wakarusa River, the restored prairie area west of the emergency spillway pilot channel, the wetland cells created by the City in 2000, and the south and north bluff areas at either end of Clinton Dam. As well, a new prairie restoration area is proposed for the southeast portion of the park and new picnic areas are created-one large area with a new lake the south park entry and another at the north bluff area-enveloping the amphitheater and Sesquicentennial Plaza sites. The created wetland cells near the YSI adult softball complexes are anticipated to receive improvements that will make the area more attractive and accommodating to park users. An environmental demonstration site is also planned to cater to school groups and the desire to promote stewardship of natural resources.
Other new or expanded park uses include extensive trail developments – both paved multi-use and natural surface hiking trails, an equestrian trailhead and trail to the Corps of Engineers property (tying into the Corps equestrian trails), a community gathering hall, a large covered pavilion and outdoor ice skating rink, a destination playground, skate park, water spray park (or plaza), disc golf, an off-leash dog area, and park entry signs. To accommodate the expanded and new areas, the plan addresses the need for new park drives and parking lots, utility infrastructure for sports facilities, and expanded maintenance complex facilities.
The park is also the suggested location of the Sesquicentennial Plaza proposed as a gift to community residents to commemorate the upcoming 150th birthday of the City of Lawrence in 2004. The consultants worked closely with the Horizon 150 Committee to identify a location for the plaza and to prepare a conceptual design and associated opinion of probable costs to build the plaza. It was established that an outdoor amphitheater was also a desirable destination feature for the park and as the planning process progressed, the amphitheater was conceived as a viable land use in tandem with the Sesquicentennial Plaza as a vehicle to attract visitors to the Plaza. The amphitheater parking area can also be used to accommodate large community festivals and special events when many visitors are concentrated in the area.
Both current and projected traffic patterns as they relate to park access are major programmatic factors in the conceptual development of the Master Plan. The City’s Transportation 2020 Plan identifies the proposed southerly extension of Wakarusa Drive as a minor arterial connecting to County Road 458. The proposed alignment of Wakarusa Drive along the eastern border of the park will enable an entry into the park just north of the river, allowing access to the entire northeast portion of the park. Furthermore, an internal east/west connector road across the pilot channel links the lower dam road, thus providing some relief to traffic congestion in both directions. Projected traffic counts in the event of increased recreational activity in the current YSI location suggest that sports such as soccer that attract high volume traffic would be better moved to another location in the park. At such time that Wakarusa Drive is extended south, the Master Plan shows that the current at-grade access to YSI from the SLT will by necessity be closed and relocated to the south as shown on the Master Plan.