In a rare fusion of nature preservation and economic development, Wichita, Kansas will soon see its urban wetlands become a public park.
In doing so, it is upending the classic template of a park as a place of well-mowed green space and tennis courts, and replacing it with a vision that is more wild and native.
And in one graceful step, the wetlands project will also improve stormwater management and improve the value of nearby commercial projects.
City Council Member Bryan Frye, whose district includes the park, says that, for years, citizens expressed concern that the wetlands would become “just another parking lot or apartment complex.”
Years ago, when Slawson’s earlier projects were taking shape, there was a great deal of resistance about how they would impact the wetlands and flood control.
But the new proposal for the park has residents feeling “extremely positive.”
“It’s a fantastic project that combines economic development, an ecological treasure, a property tax addition and stormwater control,” says Frye. “And it’s all without tax dollars or incentives.”