What’s new with JoCo Park and Recreation

JCPRD’s Natureplay Preschools are now Nature Explore certified

Kids sitting on benches in a grassy area

Two Natureplay Preschool programs operated by the Johnson County Park and Recreation District for ages three to five were recently recognized as Certified Nature Explore Classrooms. These programs are located at the Mill Creek Activity Center in Shawnee and the Meadowbrook Park Clubhouse in Prairie Village.

This is the culmination of a process the programs began in 2019 to achieve certification from the Nature Explore program, a division of the nonprofit Dimensions Educational Research Foundation. These two programs join a network of more than 510 certified programs across the U.S., including only six others in Kansas.

For certification, participating programs are required to have a number of specific components in their outdoor classrooms, including an entry feature, open space for large-motor development, a messy materials area, and more.

The Natureplay Preschool at MCAC opened in early 2013, while the program at Meadowbrook opened in August 2019. These programs aim to provide a foundation of environmental literacy for preschool-aged children through exposure to nature.

Revamped bunkers improve play at Heritage Park Golf Course

Bunker on a golf course

After a test project a few years ago meant to serve as a demonstration, a major revamp of the “Billy bunkers” (also known as sand traps) at the Johnson County Park and Recreation District’s Heritage Park Golf Course was undertaken this summer and was substantially completed in August. Officials expect this project will improve both play and maintenance at the course.

Heritage Park Golf Course was originally built in 1990 and after 30 years, the bunkers had become both a maintenance and a play issue. Player feedback to the change has been overwhelmingly positive. JCPRD is exploring the possibility of renovating bunkers at its other public course, Tomahawk Hills Golf Course, in 2023.

Kirsten Taylor was JCPRD’s first artist-in-residence

A woman creates clay art on a table

The Johnson County Park and Recreation District successfully hosted its first ever artist-in-residence in 2022, and another residency is already in the works.

Kirsten Taylor, a multimedia artist and a student in the masters of fine arts program at the University of Kansas, served in an Art and Natural Resources Residency from Aug. 1 through October.

Taylor’s work was meant to bring attention to invasive plant species like bush honeysuckle and JCPRD’s ongoing efforts to combat them. The residency included a four-week immersion experience with the JCPRD Natural Resources Team, the creation of an ephemeral temporary art piece, an artist-led workshop, and a community outreach project. Taylor’s temporary sculpture called “A Seat at the Table” was installed in late September on the Orange Trail north of the marina parking lot in Shawnee Mission Park, Shawnee and Lenexa, and was expected to be on display through November.

The artist constructed a table with triangular tiles made of local clay harvested from Shawnee Mission Park, each featuring an impression of a plant from the tallgrass prairie region that flourishes when the invasive species, such as bush honeysuckle, is removed. The piece is located 0.2 miles from the trailhead along an unpaved, natural surface with uneven terrain. An indoor and fully-accessible exhibit featuring photography telling the story of the making and intent behind the artwork will be located at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center through the end of the year.

The art residency project was supported by a grant from the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission. In late 2022, JCPRD anticipates opening a second annual artist-inresidence opportunity focusing on prairie restoration in the spring and summer months of 2023.

Kirsten Taylor talks about "A Seat at the Table"