Blue Springs parks plans

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net
The Examiner

Sure, a new aquatic center next to the Fieldhouse, plus one and perhaps two new parks in south Blue Springs got used as selling points when city voters overwhelmingly said yes and permanently renewed the half-cent sales tax for Blue Springs parks. 

But more importantly, Parks Directors Dennis Dovel said, will be his department’s ability to consistently plan maintenance and necessary replacement projects. Then they can avoid the situation that led to the initial sales tax request in 2017 – having to catch up on projects that been postponed or left on the budget cutting room floor over the years. 

Even on a chilly afternoon, a child returned with his mother to the new playground at Wilbur Young Park in east Blue Springs. The playground is one of numerous planned and completed projects funded by the half-cent parks sales tax in Blue Springs, which voters initially approved for five years in 2017 and recently decided to renew permanently.

“The single biggest thing,” Dovel said, “is we can build the greatest facility or the greatest park, but it’s nice to have the longevity, to maintain it.” 

“We wanted to convey that it isn’t just the new and sexy projects.” 

The Parks Department still has some planned projects to complete by 2022 from when voters initially approved the tax, and more than $10 million worth of improvements and replacements to existing parks have been planned through 2025.  

The department made plans from 2017 built on a budget assumption of about $15 million over five years. Dovel said the tax projects to generate at least $20 million by the end of 2022. Hence, the budgets from the tax renewal have been built based on about $4 million a year. 

“Because the sales tax has been stronger than we anticipated, we do have some flexibility,” he said. “We can do more preventative maintenance with pavement.” 

New courts and playgrounds and numerous pavement rehabs have been completed at various city parks and trails the past few years, including the splash pad at Burrus Old Mill Park and, most recently, the space-themed playground at Wilbur Young Park. Pink Hill, Baumgardner and Hidden Valley parks will soon get some rehab work, as scheduled, and new playground for Woods Chapel Park got added to the project list. 

The new aquatic center will be adjacent to the Fieldhouse on Mock Avenue, with the main building constructed into the main entrance, allowing the city to save on some administrative costs. Consultants estimated the aquatic center, with both indoor and outdoor venues and separate warm and cold pools, will cost about $22 million. Dovel said they plan to put the project out to bid in the fall and hope to start turning dirt a year after that, with an eye toward opening in 2024. 

The Blue Springs School District now owns Centennial Pool-Plex and has determined it will close the outdoor pool there rather than make the expensive repairs needed to keep it open. 

By the time the new aquatic center opens, Dovel said they also hope to have started work on the new Southwest Park, which will be off Wyatt Road west of Missouri 7. abutting Bridger Urban Conservation Area. Fully built out with all proposed amenities, including trails and an events barn the park would cost about $29 million. 

Roscoe Righter Park, on 75 acres next to Mason Elementary off Colbern Road, between M-7 and Shrout Road, would happen down the road. 

“We knew the deficiencies in those areas,” Dovel said of a south-end park and an aquatic center. “It seems like every week I drive down there, four new houses are being built. They don’t have a park nearby.” 

“We know the residents down south will be chomping for that park.”