Blue Springs officials remain hopeful one of the largest projects of its five-year parks maintenance plan can be completed as scheduled as year.
The Parks & Recreation Department is remaking Burrus Old Mill Park, one of the city's oldest parks and probably the most historically significant. It aims to have the park reopen for Memorial Day weekend, despite the delays from several winter storms.
“My contractors are telling me they can still make it, but every storm puts them in jeopardy,” said Dennis Dovel, the city’s director of parks and recreation. “Until it dries out, we're not going to have much going on there.”
“It's just like every other construction project that's outside. The weather's making it difficult, but we're doing what we can.”
The five-year, $15 million plan is funded by the half-cent sales tax that voters approved in 2017. At Burrus Old Mill Park, the tennis courts have been removed to make way for the city's first splash pad, the playground is being replaced, and renovations are coming for the basketball and volleyball courts, the softball field, the skate park, shelters and restrooms. The estimated price tag is $2.4 million.
The playground and splash pad will have a jungle theme, as decided from about 1,800 citizen votes. The parks department used citizen votes to pick design themes for the Rotary and Ward park playgrounds, as well as the skate park design.
“No one project is more important than others, but certainly from a visibility standpoint, it's one of the biggest,” Dovel said of the Burrus project. “Aquatics is something our community rates as something where they'd like to see improvements made, and it's going to be a big part of this project. People have been pretty vocal about wanting a splash pad in our community.
“With every one of our big projects, we've tried to engage our community and give them some options.”
Dovel acknowledged that the history behind Burrus also makes this renovation noteworthy. The cool, clean water that westward pioneers found on the site – hence the city's name – and the need for pioneer supplies led to a grist mill and permanent settlement being constructed in the area the park now occupies.
A large rock that had been vandalized will be brought back to a spot at Burrus and used to help tell some of that history, Dovel said.
“Certainly it's been recognized as the site where the city kind of started; there's a lot of trails that came through here,” Dovel said. “Being the historical town site, we're doing some things to keep that history.”
In 2018, the first year with dedicated sales tax funds available, the city replaced tennis courts at Blue Springs and Pink Hill parks and the Rotary and Ward playgrounds and improved a few trails.
In 2020, many parts of Wilbur Young Park next to Blue Springs South High School will be replaced or enhanced, a project that will cost about $3.4 million. Projects over the next three years include numerous trails and parking lot improvements, redoing the Hidden Valley Park playground and some fix-ups for the Vesper Hall senior center.