Johnson County Grappling with Nature vs. Athletic Fields

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. - A debate over what to do with Stanley Nature Park in Johnson County is getting some people who use the park a little riled up.

Some residents say it's a unique spot where you feel like you're lost in nature, even though you're basically in the heart of a city.

But Blue Valley School District says that piece of land is precisely what the district needs to keep growing.

On most days, Stanley Nature Park is quiet except for the sound of trees creaking in the wind.  It's why Julie Dierickx says she goes there.

"It's pretty, there's some streams with water running. I often run into deer. I've seen a fox running through," Dierickx said.

This is her "getaway" from the city. It's Mark Hanson's daily get away too, often with his dog, Sophie.

"It's just a great place to come and run or bring your dog," Hanson said.

But soon this park could turn into sports fields for Blue Valley High School, located next door to the park.

"Currently softball players all have to go offsite in order to go have practice. Our parking continues to be a problem for the building," said deputy superintendent Al Hanna.

Hanna says the district's first high school was built before there were girls high school sports or soccer, so the school doesn't have enough fields. He says it's the perfect 40-acre space near the school, and one that he says that the Parks Department might not miss.

"This is a park that the Parks and Recreation Department had plans to abandon," Hanna pointed out.

In exchange, the district is offering to give 60 acres of land to Johnson County Parks and Recreation in the southern part of the county. That land could become "stream way" parks, or trails along creeks.

"It does fit into the streamway parks master plan," explained Mike Brown, a commissioner for the Johnson County Parks and Recreation Board.

The compromise over the land trade is far from a done deal. There will be a public hearing on February 28th - click here for more information.

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