Announcer [00:00:01] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County Kansas JoCo on the goal has everything. Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community. You go home.
Theresa Freed [00:00:14] Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the go. We're excited to launch the first ever podcast for Johnson County Kansas. I'm your host Theresa freed. A Johnson County resident an employee of Johnson County government we have lots of ways to connect with you whether you get JoCo magazine or for our older audience The Best Times. We also have a Web site JoCogov.org a monthly email newsletter and we're on Facebook Twitter and Instagram. These are all great ways to get information about the programs and services we provide and events happening around Johnson County. But rarely do you really get to hear from the people in charge the people who lead some of the programs and services that affects so many Johnson County residents. And that's really why we thought it made sense for Johnson County to have a podcast. When you're sitting in your car driving to work or home we hope you listen in as we discuss different topics of interest to residents. Cover important things like how major capital projects are coming along how your appraisal is determined and plenty of fun things like we're discussing today which is the awesome things you can do at Johnson County parks and golf courses. Our guests today are Jill Geller, executive director of Johnson County Parks and Recreation District and also Bill Maasen, the superintendent of parks and golf courses. Thanks for helping us kick off our first episode.
Jill Geller [00:01:31] Thank you for having us. We're excited to be here.
Bill Maasen [00:01:33] It's a pleasure to be involved.
Theresa Freed [00:01:35] All right well let's go ahead and get started. We got a list of all the events that you guys have going on and want to discuss during our first podcast here. There's just so much to talk about so we're going to go and get started with that. First off the important stuff. Summer is kind of winding down and the aquatics facilities are changing ours or closing for the seasons where we add on that.
Jill Geller [00:01:56] Well yes summer is winding down and our beaches at Shawnee Mission Park and kill Creek Park will close for the season on August 11th. The Shawnee Mission Park Marina will continue to be open weekends only after August 11th through Labor Day and Roland Park Aquatic Center will be open Friday through Sunday only after August 11th. So, it's hard to believe that summer's almost over but the aquatics features at JCPRD are winding down.
Theresa Freed [00:02:21] All right. And there's a very good reason for why we have to do that obviously. You know winter approaching or a change in the seasons so it's going to be cooler. But also tell us about the workers the staff that you have.
Jill Geller [00:02:33] Well most of our staff at our beaches and marine is an aquatic center. Our high school and college students and so many of them go back to school in the middle of August so we lose a lot of our staff plus at the time that everyone goes back to school. The attendance at our aquatic centers close as well so that's one of the reasons we close at that time of year.
Theresa Freed [00:02:53] All right that makes sense. You guys have had a busy summer with the new parks opening including the new inclusive playground that residents are now enjoying. So, what can families with children who have special needs expects when they head out there.
Jill Geller [00:03:05] Well we're really excited to have open to new inclusive playgrounds in the last 12 months. Last August we opened one at Stillwell Community Park at 207th and Metcalf. And on July 6 we opened an inclusive playground at Shawnee Mission Park with great success. We estimate there were about a thousand people at our opening day celebration and these playground amenities are designed with children of all abilities in mind. There are features to accommodate wheelchair-bound individuals those with sight or hearing impairments those on the autism spectrum and those with no disabilities. Everyone can play side by side so it's truly a great feature in our community.
Theresa Freed [00:03:40] And I know after the opening we received really good feedback on social media from people who enjoyed the park. And it's a different experience whether you go to one park or the other. So...
Jill Geller [00:03:50] Absolutely the features at the Stilwell Community inclusive playground are completely different than the ones that Shawnee Mission Park so you could go to one playground one weekend and the other playground the following weekend have completely different experiences.
Theresa Freed [00:04:03] And thank goodness we have plenty of cooler days ahead where people can get out and enjoy maybe for longer periods of time out there too. So that's great. All right well the much-anticipated Meadowbrook Park is now open. Can you tell us about that and what's available there?
Jill Geller [00:04:17] Well Meadowbrook Park officially opened on June 22nd. It's truly a jewel in the heart of Northeast Johnson County and this amazing 82-acre park features more than three miles of trail beautiful ponds, picnic shelters, pickleball courts a nature based playground and a large destination playground called treeline adventure that is so popular I bet not a day goes by that we don't hear from someone I drove by Meadowbrook Park and there's 100 kids on the playground. So, it's just an amazing playground at the same time we open Meadowbrook Park clubhouse which is a large facility that features a classroom where we offer a wide variety of recreation programs. We have a nature based preschool there called Nature Play and a large event space that overlooks the park which is perfect for large meetings and special events.
Theresa Freed [00:05:02] All right and how do people go about booking events there?
Jill Geller [00:05:04] The best way is to get on our Web site at www.jcprd.com and there's a whole list of amenities there and they can contact the people via that.
Theresa Freed [00:05:14] All right. So, if anybody has a bored day, they don't know what to do. Going to your Web sites a great place to start. Right. That's right. OK. So, speaking of activities in the county, Bill it's still plenty hot out right now and people are enjoying the outdoors especially on the golf courses around the county. Can you tell me about some of the activities that people can participate in out there?
Bill Maasen [00:05:33] Absolutely. So, we have we Johnson County Park and Recreation Department owns and operates two golf courses. Our old timer or oldest one in our inventory is Tomahawk Hills at basically Midland and 435. It opened in 1910 we've owned it since the middle 70s and it's sort of it's what we would call a hilly more tight golf course. And then we opened Heritage Park Golf Course in 1989 and it's in Heritage Park and it's a more modern open link style or prairie style golf course and it's both courses are well-attended, and we encourage folks to get out it's the perfect time of year to play golf. You know the days are getting a little shorter but there's still plenty of daylight till about seven thirty or eight o'clock at night. You can get some good rates especially in late afternoons.
Theresa Freed [00:06:22] All right. So, there's traditional golf but there's also disc golf, right?
Bill Maasen [00:06:26] Correct. Yes, so disc golf is a growing sport in our nation and our agency has jumped into that and we have three courses. We have one at Shawnee Mission Park. All three courses are 18 holes. All of the holes are considered to be par threes. So, you play 18 holes through a par of 54. So, Shawnee Mission Park is our oldest course. We opened a Heritage Park about three or four years ago. And then just recently last fall we opened the Big Bull Creek disc golf course which is near 197th and Four Corners Road. So that was part of the grand opening at big Bull Creek last fall.
Theresa Freed [00:07:03] All right. And Disc Golf is one of those games that's very affordable for people to play right.
Bill Maasen [00:07:08] Fairly affordable you can you know by three discs to start out for less than 50 dollars and you can enjoy them all summer.
Theresa Freed [00:07:16] All right. That sounds great. Well something else that people really enjoy doing I've notice is going to Theatre in the Park. In fact, we were recently out at the Johnson County Fair and we had several people come up and ask about you know what's coming up next there. So, I also got to recently visit a Theatre in the Park for the first time and enjoy that with my son. We watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. So, tell me about that all season what does it take putting that together?
Jill Geller [00:07:42] Well it's been a big year at the Theatre in the Park as we were celebrating our 50th season this year. Can you believe it? 50 years is a long time a long time and it's been a great season and just to provide the listeners an idea of the type of productions they could see if they come to Theatre in the Park. This year we did produce Annie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which you mentioned. The Music Man, Matilda and The Wizard of Oz. So many fun family favorites for families to come out and enjoy. It's remarkable to me that all of the actors and musicians in these productions are volunteers. The talent in this community is amazing and the Theatre in the Park is truly community theater at its finest. So, our fiftieth season concludes here shortly with the Wizard of Oz. Our last production for the season will be August 10th. But again, it's just a truly a community project that everyone comes together -- musicians, costumers, actors, producers, directors and we put on these amazing shows at Theatre in the Park.
Theresa Freed [00:08:40] We really do it again for families on a budget. It's a really affordable way to get outside and be among you know the people in the community and just enjoy something that's kind of magical.
Jill Geller [00:08:51] Very affordable eight dollars for adults six dollars for children. There are concessions. They're available with lots of good food and of course popcorn that are all extremely affordable as well. So yes, a family can go out to theater in the park and have a great, great evening for a low cost.
Theresa Freed [00:09:07] All right. That's terrific. And then you have a lot of other things happening for the remainder of this summer and into fall. Can you kind of talk about some of those that that people might be interested in.
Jill Geller [00:09:17] Yeah and I do want to mention our My Activities catalog lists all of the programs and offerings that we have going on that new one came out in July. So those can be picked up at any of our JCPRD facilities or at the Johnson County libraries. That really gives a huge overview of all that we offer. And of course, it's available on our web site at JCPRD.com. We offer more than 4000 programs a year so there truly is something for everyone. But one thing I do want to highlight is a thank you to our residents. We're so appreciative of the support that we get from our community and so on September 28, we'll have a big celebration at Theatre in the Park called Evening in the Park. It's free to our community. It'll take us back to the 80s with a performance by the 80s cover band called M80s and then we'll follow that with a showing of the movie Back to the Future. So, we know it's going to be a fun night out at Theatre in the Park and we invite everyone who's listening to join us on September 28 along with their family and friends.
Theresa Freed [00:10:14] All right that sounds terrific. Any other events we talk about.
Jill Geller [00:10:18] You know we might talk a bit about our e-bikes and also our bike share program. And I think Bill can share that information with us.
Bill Maasen [00:10:25] Yeah. So, we just entered into a pilot project to evaluate, for six months, to evaluate the use of e-bikes which are Class 1 and Class 3 pedal-assist bicycles that have a little electronic motor in them that helps people with disabilities or older people ride bikes on our trails. So, the pilot project is intended to study interactions with non e-bike users and typical users of our trails to ensure that there is no inherent conflicts that could in essence after the end of the six-month period it could end up resulting in a modification of our code to allow so-called motorized conveyance on our on our trails. So that's one of the reasons why we're doing the pilot project where you'll also see some other modifications to our trails. This summer we'll be seal coating and fixing some cracks and then painting a yellow dash line on the majority of our paved trails so that it helps people understand you know keep to the right pass on the left. Little safety courtesy so to speak for our trail users so e-bikes are in our market. They're here. It’s a growing part of the bike industry so around the country folks or a lot of agencies are looking at ways to accommodate that use. So, it is a it is a sea change in our industry though just because you know typically trails are meant to be for non-motorized uses and some legal definition does make an eBike a motorized conveyance. The other thing Jill did mention, and I'd just reiterate is that we are going to be engaging in a bike share program where we'll have, I think, I believe 14 kiosks where people can rent bikes from at various locations in our park system and those are coming this fall.
Theresa Freed [00:12:26] All right. So, lots of exciting stuff especially if you frequent the trails which I know a lot of people do right.
Bill Maasen [00:12:32] Yes. Trails are popular in our community.
Theresa Freed [00:12:34] For sure. All right well we want to get to one question from our viewers listeners residents if you will. We have a resident who has a question about getting his young son involved in golf. How do you get started in that? What kinds of courses or classes are best for that?
Bill Maasen [00:12:53] So I would encourage anyone to either go straight to one of the two clubhouses Tomahawk Hills or Heritage Park Golf Course and visit with the staff that work there about getting their youth involved in in golf because it's a it's a lifelong sport and it's a wonderful sport to enjoy for your entire life. And there are youth programs maybe those start in June and last for much of the summer. There are very good discounts for kid and youth rounds, and we would encourage folks to get involved and go by the clubhouses. You can see the right information online too at JCPRD.com. So, both are opportunities to get both opportunities for you to look either in-person or online.
Theresa Freed [00:13:35] All right. What's a good age for somebody to start?
Bill Maasen [00:13:38] Well that's a wonderful question. I would say that you know maybe starting at the age five, six, seven is about as early as you can start at a golf course. I didn't start playing till I was in my 20s. So, a lot of people start in their teens. So, you know there's a lot of our lot of the people out of the youth that are involved in our courses now are around the age of 10. But you know younger is fine too.
Theresa Freed [00:14:03] And do they need to bring their own clubs or...?
Bill Maasen [00:14:06] Usually there are there is a requirement to bring your own clubs. But there are clubs available for lessons and for some of the group lessons.
Theresa Freed [00:14:13] All right. That sounds terrific. All right Jill and I understand you have some news. You have been a long-standing member of the Johnson County staff and I know you've enjoyed your time here and made some great improvements. But I hear you're moving on.
Jill Geller [00:14:28] I am moving on I've spent 36 years here at Johnson County Park and Recreation District and I've loved every minute of it. I've been the executive director for five and a half years and it's truly been an honor for me to serve in that role. I'm passionate about Parks and Recreation and feel that the preservation of green space and providing quality recreational opportunities is essential to the quality of life of the community. So, I drive home from work every single day feeling like the work we do here makes a difference. And that's extremely rewarding. My family and I are relocating to California. And I'll get to continue to do what I love serving as the director of Parks Recreation and Libraries for the City of Roseville in California. But I will miss Johnson County. I will miss Johnson County Parks and Rec, but I am so confident and happy that it is in great hands and there are many, many wonderful things to come for our agency and the community. All right anything else we want to talk about. I think again just visit our website and you'll learn everything you need to know about JCPRD.
Theresa Freed [00:15:26] All right. That's perfect. Well thank you guys for joining us today again for our first podcast episode. We will be followed up with many more I hope. And if you need more information about parks as you heard you can visit their website you can also go to jocogov.org For more information about anything Johnson County.
Announcer [00:15:57] You just heard JoCo On the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at JoCoGov. For more on this podcast visit jocogov.org/podcast. Thanks for listening.