Johnson County Parks and Recreation (JCRPD) wanted to develop a new, destination park for the underserved community of Prairie Village and northeast Johnson County. Located in a completely developed part of the metro area, there wasn’t a greenspace readily available for a new, large park. Through a unique partnership, JCPRD has been able to transform a private golf course into an 84-acre park.
The selected location was in one of the most residentially dense areas in the county. Projected population data suggested the communities surrounding it would only continue to grow in the next 15 years. By transforming this private space into a public one, JCPRD had the opportunity to provide a wealth of amenities to residents. Some of these include spaces for recreation, reflection and introspection. It also provides opportunities for multigenerational interaction and includes outdoor environmental study areas for local schools.
Throughout the design process, our team engaged closely with residents through a variety of stakeholder involvement initiatives. These helped ensure the park met the diverse needs of the community. This feedback led us to several guiding principles for the design. They included variety, connectivity, accessibility, beauty and safety.
Our team collected input using several different formats and continued to report back to the residents, keeping them involved. Design solutions were thoroughly vetted and achieved by finding consensus among the various stakeholder groups for this coveted, open space acreage. Collaborative efforts included multiple public at-large open houses; existing homeowners’ association meetings; close coordination with the developer, Van Trust Real Estate; presentations to the City of Prairie Village Planning Commission and City Council; presentations to the Board of County Commissioners; and presentations to the Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners. Over 400 citizens participated in the public meeting process further exemplifying the desire for a quality park.
Meadowbrook Park’s success is due to the organization of open space, trails, youth play, senior exercise, tree preservation and storm water amenity preservation and enhancements, the great lawn, and community buildings. Open space was a key component of the master plan we created. Public and private participants agreed the park needed to provide space for passive activities. Large, open expanses allow unprogrammed activity and provide scenic delight.
Trails were one of the most sought-after amenities in the public participation process. Over four miles of walking trails connect Meadowbrook Park’s many amenities. Trails were designed to minimize disturbance of existing trees and topography. They connect to the larger neighborhood context and new development at key junctions. The design team was careful to preserve healthy, existing trees onsite through careful alignment and placement of park amenities.
Each of the three playgrounds offer distinctly different play experiences. The Destination Playground offers tall towers, cable structures and zip lines for challenging and physical fun. This playground was selected by residents, including children, who participated in the open voting process facilitated by JCPRD. The Natural Playground weaves in and out of existing trees and is fun to discover while using the trail network. A separate sound play garden incorporates a variety of musical instruments, along with a sand play area for inclusive and accessible play. Shared between the playground and sound play areas is a raised butterfly garden filled with flowering perennials and plants attractive and beneficial to beautiful butterflies.
A senior exercise area is located adjacent to the development’s proposed senior housing. It incorporates several pieces of low intensity outdoor exercise equipment and a formal garden for lawn games, such as bocce ball.
One of the favored elements at Meadowbrook Park is the Great Lawn. The formal oval defines a large flat expanse planned for multiple uses, such as concerts and community festivals. The north end of the oval terminates on the community building, while the south end is anchored by a large sculptural piece located within the roundabout on Meadowbrook Drive. South of this drive are two ponds with fountain features and walking trails, along with benches and seating, for a passive park experience.
The site of the existing clubhouse has been reborn with the construction of a new activity center designed to host community events, wedding receptions, yoga classes and conferences. The activity center also includes a nature-focused pre-school. Adjacent to the activity center is a grand pavilion, evoking prairie style architecture and offering gathering space for large events, complete with a fire pit.
A private golf course that used to serve only the select few is now accessible to a greater population with elevated amenities aimed at serving a diverse group of residents. With community members having a direct influence on the design and execution of the park, Meadowbrook Park is a beautiful illustration of private spaces returning to the public realm.