Johnson County opened its newest park in early January, capitalizing on the natural beauty of an area west of Kansas 7 highway.
Cedar Niles Park encompasses about 1,000 acres roughly between 119th and 135th streets. It has streams, dramatic topography, 4 miles of paved trail, plus single-track trails for hiking and mountain biking. The unpaved trail network, called the Columbine Loop, is in the northern area of the park and named for the wildflower that grows abundantly there.
Hikers and bikers can access the trails in three places, where bicycle fix-it stations have been installed:
▪ 127th Street and Clare Road.
▪ 119th Street just west of Clare Road.
▪ 25780 W. 135th Street near Lake Olathe, where visitors also can find a shelter and playground.
The Johnson County Park and Recreation District developed the master plan for Cedar Niles in 2008. Public sentiment favored mostly passive uses, with a strong interest in trails. Future plans include practice fields, a restored prairie and wetlands, equestrian trails, an off-leash dog area and an archery range.
COVID surge nixes senior dining option
The recent surge of COVID infections has forced the closure of seven Neighborhood Centers in Johnson County where older adults gather for meals and other activities.
The closures began Jan. 18, and the county’s Aging & Human Services department tentatively set Feb. 28 as the date for resuming on-site dining.
Meanwhile, a grab-and-go lunch option is available to residents who call the Neighborhood Center by 10 a.m. the previous day to request a meal. The Home Delivered Meals program is not affected.
Hot meals are available weekdays to people 60 and up and their spouses. The suggested donation is $3. People under 60 can order a meal at full cost.
Neighborhood Centers are located in downtown Overland Park, Merriam, Lenexa, De Soto, Gardner, Edgerton and Spring Hill. The Edgerton location typically offers the grab-and-go option only.
In addition, the county commission voted Jan. 13 to conduct meetings virtually through mid-February. The policy, which can be lifted if health conditions improve, applies not only to the county commission but to other county boards, commissions and agencies.
Battling opiate overdoses
Opiate-related overdoses killed more than twice as many people in Johnson County last year compared to two years earlier. However, county officials say they will soon receive legal settlement money to help combat the scourge.
An opiate was listed as the cause of death in 86 cases handled through the Johnson County Medical Examiner’s office last year, according to a county news release. In 2019, the figure was 34.
Johnson County Chief Medical Examiner Diane Peterson said the deaths were primarily attributed to fentanyl, a non-pharmaceutical-created opioid.
“Since late 2020, we’ve seen a large increase in the times an opiate was involved in a death,” Peterson said. “Most of the individuals who are dying have more than one opiate in their system. It’s not just fentanyl. It’s not just oxycodone. They’re combining it with other drugs, such as benzodiazepines, like alprazolam or Xanax. It doesn’t take much fentanyl to kill you.”
Late last year, the Johnson County Commission agreed to change its approach to litigation against the pharmaceutical industry. Instead of pursuing claims separately, the county is joining multinational settlements that are expected to bring millions of dollars here.
Deputy County Manager Maury Thompson said some settlement money could arrive as early as this spring.
Name that plow: Sleetwood Mac, Darth Blader, more
Maybe these Olathe folks should be headline writers. After the city asked residents in early November to name Olathe’s 15 residential snow plows, hundreds of suggestions were submitted.
The winners, announced Jan. 14, referenced everything from a Chiefs running back to rock music and “Star Wars.” Here they are:
Tyreek Chill, Snow Devil, Darth Blader, Snowbi-Wan Kenobi, Copito de Nieve, Sleetwood Mac, Sir Plows-a-Lot, Blizzard of Oz, Chuck Snowrris, Luke Snowalker, Oh Snow U Didn’t, Plow Bunyan, Sled Zeppelin, Saltzilla and Santa Fe Scraper.
The city, of course, sets an example with its #snolathe label for winter weather info. Find the latest at OlatheKS.org/snolathe.
Novice teachers honored
Teachers from three Johnson County schools are among 32 second-year educators recognized for their outstanding skills through the 2022 Kansas Horizon Award program.
Sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education, the program allows school districts to nominate one elementary and one secondary teacher who have completed their first year in the classroom. Up to four teachers in each category can be named winners from each Kansas congressional district.
The Johnson County winners:
▪ Alyson Daniels, Spring Hill Early Learning Academy.
▪ Zac Johnson, Blue Valley West High School.
▪ Anna Meissbach, Monticello Trails Middle School in the De Soto School District.
Sculpture sought for Leawood’s 75th
Leawood will celebrate its 75th anniversary next year, and a new sculpture will be part of the observance.
The city has budgeted up to $200,000 for the art work and selected two potential locations:
▪ The northeast corner of MIssion Road and Lee Boulevard near the west entrance to Leawood City Park.
▪ The northeast corner of 133rd Street and Mission Road in Gezer Park.
The selected artist will choose the site. The city aims to have the artwork installed by late August of 2023 and dedicated the following fall. The deadline for submissions is 4 p.m. March 1.
Leawood dedicated its first first public art sculpture in 1999 and now has 24 exterior sculptures in its collection.
What next for Merriam’s downtown?
As Merriam continues to plan for the future of its downtown and Merriam Drive, the city is asking members of the public to weigh in.
At merriam.org/downtown, residents, business owners and others can see images of streetscapes and bicycle amenities and vote for what they like. On an interactive map, they also can view and react to ideas that others have entered, comment on current activities or concerns and submit ideas of their own.
Multi-state honor for SM East tennis coach
Tennis Coach Andy Gibbs of Shawnee Mission East High School has been named Coach of the Year for girl tennis in the region encompassing Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.
The honor comes from the National Federation of State High School Associations and puts Gibbs in the running for National Coach of the Year.
As many as 90 students may be interested in tennis at Shawnee Mission East, according to a district news release, and Gibbs makes sure each one has court time — even if that means running three practices.
“Our community should know that if your son or daughter has any desire to play tennis, he will find a way to make it happen,” Debbie Katzfey, the school’s athletic director, said in the release. “He works so hard to give them all a chance to love the game as much as he does. He is really amazing.”
Local roots for KU donor
A gift from the estate of a Mission native provides $1 million to the University of Kansas School of Law and $1 million to KU’s School of Engineering.
Dean Frisbie attended what is now Shawnee Mission North High School, and earned degrees from both KU schools in the early 1950s. After serving in the Army, Frisbie made his fortune in California.
He worked five years as a land use attorney for Standard Oil and later became a real estate developer. Hoping to increase the value of land he owned, Frisbie also let a neighbor plant a vineyard on 400 acres. From that was born a winery that eventually was sold to E. & J. Gallo Winery.
Frisbie died last year, KU said.