On Saturday, April 24, the John Lewis Barkley Plaza, honoring the first superintendent of Johnson County’s park system, will be officially dedicated near the newly reconfigured main entrance to Shawnee Mission Park at 7900 Renner Road.
Sponsored by the Johnson County Park and Recreation District (JCPRD), the public event begins at 10 a.m. Attendees to the dedication are encouraged to wear face masks and practice social distancing.
Featured speakers include Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners; Leslee Rivarola, JCPRD board chair; Dr. Matt Naylor, president and CEO of the National World War I Museum and Memorial; and Jeff Stewart, JCPRD executive director. The ribbon-cutting celebration is scheduled to take place at approximately 10:45 a.m.
A recipient of the Medal of Honor from WWI, Barkley acquired approximately 1,300 acres for development of the first two parks in the Shawnee Mission Park District, now called the Johnson County Park and Recreation District. He also spearheaded efforts to ask the Kansas Legislature in 1953 to create a special park district in Johnson County.
The Shawnee Mission Park District was formed on Jan. 12, 1955. The following year, a bond issue of $1.1 million for land purchase and park development was passed by Johnson County voters. The bonds were used for purchase and initial development of land for future parks.
Barkley was appointed the park district’s first superintendent in December 1956. He personally negotiated the acquisition of 1,250 acres in Shawnee and Lenexa that would become Shawnee Mission Park along with 44 acres for development of Antioch Park in Merriam. He retired as superintendent of the park district in 1963. Barkley died three years later at age 70. More information on John Lewis Barkley is available in a The Best Times magazine article.
The Shawnee Mission Park District’s name was changed to JCPRD in 1969. It remains the only special park district in Kansas. JCPRD now has 17 parks with slightly more than 10,000 acres.