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Mar 27

Practice social distancing and get some outdoor therapy in JCPRD parks!

Posted on March 27, 2020 at 4:38 PM by Becky Burnside

Like most other government agencies, the Johnson County Park and Recreation District has halted all of its programs, classes, and events and closed all indoor facilities to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.  

But as bleak and scary as all that is, JCPRD still has something important to offer - as of this writing, our parks remain open for public use. In addition, JCPRD’s two public golf courses are set to reopen for play utilizing “a touchless golf experience” on Monday, March 23 (see related story), and several JCPRD departments and divisions are also making and sharing videos of things to do at home and other fun stuff that can be watched via social media.

Studies have shown that being in the outdoors can help us get through times of uncertainty, and that just being outside reduces anger, anxiety, and stress. This is not to suggest that being outdoors always means safety when a highly-contagious respiratory disease is around, but with about 10,000 acres encompassing 16 parks, and 87 miles of trails, we have plenty of open spaces where individuals and small family groups can exercise, explore, and observe nature while still practicing the recommended six feet of social distancing.  

Please wash your hands often, avoid large groups of people, and follow all of the other safety precautions recommended by the CDC and local health agencies. But if it feels safe and you are able, consider a walk on one of our streamway or other trails. Note that if you choose to walk on one of our single-track (dirt) trails, these amenities close under wet conditions to protect the trails, and those using the trails when they are closed are subject to tickets. In addition to signs at the trailheads, visit and search for Urban Trail Co. to find closure information.

Walking your dog at one of JCPRD’s four dog off-leash areas, is another option. Note that gates to these areas are being left open to eliminate the need for users to touch the gates during the coronavirus pandemic. Patrons should be aware of this change and leash and unleash their dogs further into the park than they normally would. With the exception of Ernie Miller Park, where pets are prohibited, dogs can also be walked on-leash in any JCPRD park, but be sure to clean up after your pet.

Other outdoor activities in JCPRD parks could include: a bike ride in a park; flying kites; a photo safari to document the return of spring; disc golf on the courses in Shawnee Mission, Heritage or Big Bull Creek parks; archery at the range in Shawnee Mission Park (permit required) or even fishing or boating (with the proper permits and / or license) at Lexington Lake, Shawnee Mission, or Kill Creek parks (those last two have been stocked with trout twice in the last month). 

The JCPRD Administration Building in Shawnee Mission Park and the Registration Office in Building D at Antioch Park are currently closed to the public, but JCPRD permits for fishing, archery, and boating can be purchased at the Olathe Bass Pro Shop at the customer service counter, at Johnson County Wal-Mart stores in the Sporting Goods Department, and at Scheels at the upstairs customer service counter. With conditions changing rapidly, it is advisable to call ahead to make sure these locations are open. To purchase a JCPRD permit over the phone with a credit card, call (913) 438-7275.  A receipt will be emailed to serve as a temporary permit and you will receive your physical permit by mail.

As of March 25, all 21 playgrounds and two fitness areas containing outdoor exercise equipment in JCPRD parks are closed to public use until at least April 23. Signs have been posted to notify the public of these closures.

JCPRD’s outdoor sports courts, including pickleball courts in Meadowbrook Park, and basketball and tennis courts on the south side of Antioch Park, have also been closed and signed to warn patrons.

For review, here’s a complete list of JCPRD parks which are currently open: Antioch, Shawnee Mission, Heritage, Lexington Lake, Meadowbrook, Sunflower, Kill Creek, Thomas S. Stoll, Ernie Miller, Camp Branch Glade, Stilwell Community, Big Bull Creek, plus four streamway parks: Mill Creek, Coffee Creek, Kill Creek, and Blue River.

Be sure to check out and “like” JCPRD-related Facebook pages for videos, posts, and other fun stuff. In recent days, staff at the Ernie Miller Nature Center have posted videos about the center’s soft shelled turtle laying eggs and about their resident barred owl; the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center has posted a coloring page and a cowboy music video; the Johnson County Museum has posted history blogs, and a weekly Thursday photo of what the JCAHC adorable orange dogs (statues) are up to; JCPRD 50 Plus is planning virtual programs in the near future; Meadowbrook Park has posted directions for an indoor scavenger hunt; and the Johnson County Park Police Department is regularly posting photos and videos from officers in the field. Other JCPRD pages to check out include the TimberRidge Adventure Center, Roeland Park Community Center, Mill Creek Activity Center, and JCPRD’s main Facebook page.   

In this unprecedented and unsettling time, please take every step you can to stay calm, safe, and healthy!