Continuing implementation of a safety plan for the Johnson County Park & Recreation District is a goal the 2020 chair of the Board of Park and Recreation Commission has for the coming year.
“It will help maintain the safety and security that our citizens expect,” said George J. Schlagel of Olathe. “The plan will also allow us to better track the number of users of our system. Maintaining and increasing the funding to meet our program objectives is also a goal.”
Approved in 2018, the safety plan is meant to address safety needs in JCPRD parks and facilities through 2030. The plan recognized that between 2016 and 2024, JCPRD will see an 82 percent increase in park acres open to the public, a 42 percent increase in paved trail miles, and a 27 percent increase in JCPRD facilities. The plan identified the need for additional park police officers, and the installation of security cameras at parks and facilities.
Schlagel cited JCPRD’s staff as one of the agency’s greatest strengths.
“They have a broad range of knowledge and expertise and work diligently to use those talents,” he said. “On the facilities side, our trail system is second to none. Homes close to our trails and parks are at a premium because of their quality and the way that they are maintained. On the program side, I believe that the services we offer to our children are possibly the best in the nation. This past year, we doubled the number of schools for which we offer before and after school programs. With a granddaughter in the new program area, I know how valuable our program is to the parents of the children and how we can positively influence our youngsters and help keep them safe and healthy.”
As to challenges facing the district, the chair mentioned the need to understand and fulfill patron expectations.
“Heritage Soccer Park and the Mid-America Sports Complex are two examples of the users wanting more than our facilities were providing,” Schlagel said. “We need to provide quality experiences that meet the needs and expectations of our users while being fiscally responsible.”
In response to a mid-2019 consultant’s report which recommended major modernizing and improvements at the two sites Schlagel mentioned as well as at other JCPRD sports facilities, the board earmarked just under $45 million for sports facility improvements as part of a proposed five-year capital improvement plan for 2021 through 2025.
Schlagel is a senior member of the Olathe law firm of Schlagel Long LLC and has been practicing law since he received his law degree from the University of Kansas in 1974. In addition, he holds a bachelor’s degree in business, also from KU. He is an accredited estate planner and a past president and 43-year member of the Olathe Area Chamber of Commerce.
He is a former chairman of the local United Way and long-time member of the Olathe Noon Rotary Club, where he is a past president, a two-time Paul Harris Fellow, and a member of the Bequest Society. He has served on several Johnson County Committees, including the committee which successfully promoted the 1986 passage of a mill levy increase to help fund the streamway parks system, and he has served as legal counsel for the Spring Hill and Olathe Township zoning boards. Schlagel has served as the sixth district’s at-large representative to the JCPRD board since November 2006.
Schlagel and his wife, Gale, are the parents of three grown children. Among his current community involvements, Schlagel is a member of the Urban Land Institute, and a board member and secretary for Retrouvaille of Kansas City, Inc., an organization working with couples in troubled marriages.
As a fourth-generation Johnson Countian who grew up on a dairy farm previously located about a half mile south of the Doubletree Hotel, Schlagel sees parallels between farm life and maintaining parks.
“Our family implemented best practices to conserve our natural resources,” he said. “Starting with my dad, we had a 60-year continual presence on the Soil Conservation District of Johnson County. Our park district is equally committed to preserving the land and our natural resources for the betterment of all of us and for those who will follow.”
Other 2020 Officers
Other board officers for 2020 elected during the board’s Jan. 15 meeting are: Leslee Rivarola, vice chair; Paul Snider, secretary; Jeff Meyers, treasurer; Heather Rubesch, assistant secretary; Robert J. Carlson, assistant treasurer; Steven L. Baru, past chair; and Board Member Steven C. Klika.