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Ribbon cutting

John Barkley Plaza dedicated at Shawnee Mission Park

On Saturday, April 24, a new memorial plaza honoring the Johnson County park system’s first superintendent was officially dedicated by county and park leaders along with special speakers.

Located near a refurbished entrance to Shawnee Mission Park from 7900 Renner Road, the plaza tells the story of John Lewis Barkley, a Medal of Honor recipient from World War I, a Johnson County dairy farmer after the war, and the evolution of the Johnson County Park and Recreation District (JCPRD).

Featured speakers at the weekend dedication included Joan Barkley Wells, his daughter, who has served as a board member, including past president, of the Parks and Recreation Foundation since 1978.

Other speakers included:

  • Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners.
  • Leslee Rivarola, JCPRD board chair.
  • Matt Naylor, president and CEO of the National World War I Museum and Memorial, who reflected on Barkley’s military heroism in WWI.
  • Jeff Stewart, JCPRD executive director.

The John Barkley Plaza features seat walls, a shade pavilion, a drinking fountain, a bike-share rack and a bike repair station, along with an existing flagpole near the park entrance. The main drive to Shawnee Mission Park was named Barkley Drive in 1977.

Barkley’s legacy to the county park system began in the early 1950s when he acquired the land for the county’s first two parks – Shawnee Mission Park and Antioch Park – in the Shawnee Mission Park District, the predecessor to JCPRD. Barkley also spearheaded efforts to ask the Kansas Legislature in 1953 to create a special park district in Johnson County.

He was appointed the park district’s first superintendent in December 1956. Barkley died three years later at age 70. More information on John Lewis Barkley is available in this The Best Times 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.

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