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Find out what's happening in the blog. Below is a list of blog items.

Jan 31

Eastern Red Cedar

Posted to Ernie Miller Nature Center: Tracks Newsletter by Bryan Thompson

In the winter the Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is more easily seen. This evergreen is common through out our state. Many people see this tree as a weedy plant that invades the prairie, shading out grasses and flowers below. This tree is not a cedar nor is it red, at least not on the outside.

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Jun 30

Newest expansion takes Kill Creek Streamway Park Trail to 143rd Street

Posted to Explore JCPRD by Becky Burnside

A nearly two-mile expansion of the southern portion of JCPRD’s Kill Creek Streamway Park Trail quietly opened in late May and is available for public use. 

The new portion is between 135th and 143rd streets, and has been open since Memorial Day weekend. This expansion adds 1.94 miles to this portion of the Kill Creek Streamway Trail, which now totals 5.12 miles of continuous trail from 143rd St. to the North loop in Kill Creek Park. A separate noncontiguous portion of the Kill Creek Streamway Trail runs from 111th Street through De Soto to the Kansas River.

“This section, like everything below Kill Creek Park, has a very rural feel,” said Northwest Region Parks Manager Monte Fiegel. “You won’t hear many human noises and you almost never see the back of any houses.  It’s definitely another great section if you are a nature lover, or bird watcher.”

The new portion includes one 50-foot steel bridge with a concrete deck, and one 23-foot existing concrete bridge with custom designed guardrails. This expansion also added a new trailhead at 143rd Street with a new 23-stall parking lot at a site known as the Bloch Barn, which is used by JCPRD for prairie seed processing and storage. 

JCPRD park staff served as general contractors for the new expansion, and while the trail is open, some minor items are still being addressed.

“We are urging everyone who used to park along 135th Street, to please move to 143rd Street,” Fiegel said. “Other than that, make sure you have water, enjoy your trek, and don’t forget to say hi to your friendly park staff.  Because we are still adding the final touches, it is expected that visitors may encounter maintenance staff and or equipment more frequently.”

The trailhead at 143rd Street will serve as the southeast terminus of the trail, although park officials hope to expand the trail further south along the west fork of Kill Creek to the City of Gardner’s Celebration Park. No timeframe for that expansion has been set.

Concerning another nearby JCPRD project, park officials hope the much-anticipated Russell and Helen Means Observation Tower located in Kill Creek Park, 11670 Homestead Lane, Olathe, will have a “soft opening” by mid-July with an official ribbon cutting to be set later in the year. 

This structural steel tower features a precast concrete elevator shaft as well as stairs and has heavy-duty galvanized steel screening around it. The top observation deck level is 44 feet 7 inches, and the full height of the tower is 58 feet.  In addition to great views of Kill Creek Park, its lake and remnant prairie area, when conditions are right, visitors 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.