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Monday, Feb. 24, 2014

Consultants pitch parks and rec master plan for Olathe

Special to The Star

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Olathe may have excellent parks and programs, but there’s always room for improvement. At least that’s the sentiment expressed by consultants who are helping the city lay out a new 10-year master plan for its parks and recreation system.

At the City Council meeting Tuesday evening, the consultants revealed the results of its focus groups, household surveys and various assessments it conducted over the past several months.

In the beginning of the presentation, Leon Younger of Pros Consulting said that 84 percent of Olathe households use the city’s parks, one of the highest rates in the United States. In an average community, 72 percent of households use the parks, he said.

The consultants discovered that some of the most important city assets were its trails, swimming pools, neighborhood parks and indoor exercise facilities.

Adult programs, youth sports and youth swimming lessons were deemed the most important programs by residents.

And while Olathe should continue funding and maintain those facilities and programs, it should also focus on growth and change, they advised.

The consultants suggested that over the next five to 10 years, Olathe should work on creating a regional park, connecting more trails, building an outdoor family aquatic facility in the western part of the city and evaluating the feasibility of a community center east of Interstate 35, similar to the new facility that’s being built at Stagecoach Park.

“This is an enormously family-friendly town, which is something the city needs to consider,” Younger said.

Other suggestions for the city included more programs that engage minorities, seniors and people with disabilities, plus expanding special events and creating an annual event that Olathe can call its own.

“The intent is to bring communities together to celebrate traditions or history, based around food or entertainment,” Younger said. “It’s to spell out who you really are.”

The consultants plan to meet with the City Council to finalize the details of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan in the next month.

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