Meadowbrook Park In Prairie Village Opens With Lakes, Trails, Pickleball And More
The official opening of Meadowbrook Park on Saturday more than doubles Prairie Village’s park acreage, giving the landlocked city of 22,000 some 82 additional acres of open green space.
The park at 91st Street and Nall Avenue, in an older and established part of the city, occupies much of the old Meadowbrook Country Club, which closed more than a decade ago.
VanTrust, a major real estate developer, bought the 135-acre property and originally planned to develop pricey homes on most of the land and devote about 30 acres to public space. But after negotiations with the city, it agreed to flip the script, increasing the density of the residential development and selling Prairie Village about 60 percent of the acreage for use as a public park.
“As chair of Park and Rec at the time, I knew we were looking to add additional green space to Prairie Village,” said Laura Wassmer, who served as mayor of Prairie Village from 2015 to 2019 and was a driving force behind the project.
“I also saw the beauty of this land, the trees, the rolling hills and just thought what an amazing opportunity we had to preserve that land, the prettiest parcel of land we had in Prairie Village – to preserve that and make it as large as we could possibly make it.”
Prairie Village issued bonds to buy the land from VanTrust and to pay for public improvements. It then deeded the land to the Johnson County Park & Recreation District, which had the expertise to oversee development of the park and now will be charged with maintaining it.
The new taxes generated by the high-end houses, town homes and apartments VanTrust is building around the periphery of the park will be used to pay off the bonds.
“In most TIF (tax increment financing) districts, the tax increment ends up going back to the developer,” Wassmer said. “In this case, working with the VanTrust, who have been fantastic partners, we came up with the idea that instead of the increment going back to the developer, it goes back to Prairie Village to pay off the cost of the purchase price as well as the cost to develop the park.”
The park features a newly built clubhouse where the old Meadowbrook Country Club clubhouse, which was demolished, used to sit. The clubhouse will host workshops and various activities and will be available for rental by the public. The eastern side of the clubhouse includes a nature-oriented preschool operated by the parks department.
Other features of the park include man-made lakes, several miles of trails, picnic shelters with butterfly-shaped roofs, eight pickleball courts, exercise areas, a sledding hill and a children’s playground.
At Saturday’s ribbon cutting ceremony, Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County Commission, told a crowd of about 100 people that the parks department sought to identify features the community was interested in.
“In particular, the Tree Line Adventure portion of this park – I’m told that designs were solicited from worldwide companies … and the kids were called in and asked what features they would like to see,” Eilert said, referring to the playground.
Wassmer said the park represents the culmination of years of negotiations, planning and oft-delayed work. She said more than 800 people provided feedback through focus groups about what the park should look like.
“So when people say it was a collective effort, it truly was a collective effort,” she said. “And I truly believe it’s a model for other huge projects.”
“You know, honestly, I feel like a proud parent today,” she added. “And it’s just so exciting to see this many people out here enjoying something that started out with just a ‘Hey, what if.’”
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.