By David Markham
When the weather transforms JCPRD parks into winter wonderlands, it opens the door to seasonal recreation opportunities including, but not limited to, sledding, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking.
These are not only fun activities, but they also provide reasons to go outdoors when folks usually wouldn’t, and support a healthy lifestyle by encouraging exercise.
Whenever you’re outside in the winter, be sure to keep safety in mind by dressing in layers, covering exposed skin, applying sunscreen (even if it’s cloudy), and hydrating regularly.
Johnson County doesn’t have a lot of hills suitable for sledding, but JCPRD added a good one when it opened Meadowbrook Park in 2019. Called Meadowbrook Hill, this grass-covered mound consisting of silt removed from the park’s lakes is located east of the park’s clubhouse, and gets very popular for sledding and snowboarding on snowy days.
Shawnee Mission Park has several hills which are popular for sledding. One is just north of 79th Street in the small lakes area west of the restroom by Shelter #2, while another is east of John Barkley Drive just south of the park’s 79th Street entrance near the intersection with 80th Terrace.
When Shawnee Mission Park roads are closed temporarily during regular hours for safety reasons following winter weather, patrons can still park either near the John Barkley Plaza or in front of the JCPRD Administration Building parking lot and walk to the sledding sites. Be sure not to park in front of gates or otherwise block roadways.
Locations commonly used for sledding in other JCPRD parks include: a hill just east of the rose garden parking lot in Antioch Park, and small hills near the multipurpose fields just east of the park entrance in Thomas S. Stoll Memorial Park.
For safety reasons, sledding is not allowed on the Shawnee Mission Park Lake dam or in the Tomahawk Hills Golf Course. Violators are subject to possible citations.
No groomed trails are offered, but cross-country skiing is common in Shawnee Mission Park’s Bluegrass Field north of the JCPRD Administration Building, in Thomas S. Stoll Memorial Park, as well as in or along the Mill Creek Streamway Park. Cross-country skiing is not allowed on JCPRD’s two golf courses.
Heat, humidity, and insects aren’t a concern for winter hiking and the lack of foliage on bushes and trees means greater sight distance. Especially when it snows, animals and their footprints are also much easier to see. The Gary L. Haller Trail in the Mill Creek Streamway Park, the South Shore Trail in Shawnee Mission Park, and trails in Kill Creek, Kill Creek Streamway, Big Bull Creek, Coffee Creek Streamway, Lexington Lake, Ernie Miller, Cedar Niles, and Meadowbrook parks are all good choices for winter hikes.
JCPRD’s four off-leash areas are open throughout the year and give dogs and their humans a chance to explore the wintery landscape. Off-leash areas are located in the Kill Creek Streamway Park in De Soto, and in Shawnee Mission, Heritage, and Thomas S. Stoll Memorial parks. With the exception of Ernie Miller Park where no dogs are allowed, canines are also allowed on-leash in JCPRD parks.
Other activities which let you take advantage of winter include snowshoeing, photography, building snowmen, and making snow angels. In addition, JCPRD disc golf courses in Shawnee Mission, Heritage, and Big Bull Creek parks, as well as a newly-opened course in Lexington Lake Park, are all open during regular park hours, but if you’re playing in winter conditions, be sure to use discs which are brightly-colored enough to be seen.
Due to relatively short winter seasons which often do not allow ice to thicken to the suggested level of at least four inches for safety, ice skating, ice fishing, and other ice activities are not recommended on JCPRD lakes, ponds, or streams. JCPRD officials do not certify ice safety because ice thickness can vary greatly within a body of water. Those who take part in these activities do so at their own risk. Winter anglers should be aware that state license and JCPRD fishing permit requirements still apply and will be enforced.