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Johnson County to celebrate opening of new park

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 8, will celebrate the official public opening of Lexington Lake Park, 8850 Sunflower Road, in De Soto and north of K-10 Highway.

The new park is owned and operated by the Johnson County Park & Recreation District (JCPRD). Previously known as Rieke Lake, the 465-acre inverted L-shaped property features a 27-acre lake, which was previously a private fishing lake originally constructed in the 1950s.

“The lake will provide a new outstanding fishing opportunity,” Matt Garrett, field biologist for JCPRD, said. “We surveyed it and it’s a high-quality fishery. It’ll be a great crappie fishing lake, and also has largemouth bass.”

Phase I development of the park got under way in August 2016 and includes a boat ramp and courtesy dock to provide access to the lake. Other Phase I amenities include a 1.5-mile paved trail around the lake, a playground, restroom and picnic shelter.

One of the park’s unique natural features is a virgin prairie officials believe has never been plowed on the lake’s west side. The area, which encompasses about nine acres, has been surveyed and 120 prairie species, including the federally-threatened Mead’s milkweed, were found at the site. 

In addition to the native prairie, JCPRD has converted an additional 60 acres to tallgrass prairie with plans to expand that acreage in the future.

While visitors will enter the park through a grassy area, more than 300 acres are covered in oak and hickory forest towards the northern side of the property. This area slopes downward toward the Kansas River, which is about a half mile northeast of the park.

“There are remnants of old structures in there and there’s a fairly lengthy section of an old stone wall that was built probably at least 100 years ago,” JCPRD Project Manager Bill Leek said. “There are some remnants of other stone structures back in there.”

To get to Lexington Lake Park, take K-10 west from I-435 towards Lawrence. Exit at Lexington Avenue in De Soto and turn right going south under K-10 to 95th Street. Turn right (west) onto 95th and go approximately one mile to the Sunflower Road intersection. Turn right (north) onto Sunflower Road and go approximately half a mile, passing back under K-10 to the park entrance.