PARKVILLE, Mo. — The Army Corps of Engineers this week unveiled a long-awaited concept plan and cost estimate for a wetland restoration project in Platte Landing Park.
At the Tuesday, Feb. 21 Parkville Board of Aldermen meeting, the board, along with two of the three Platte County commissioners and Platte County and Parkville park board members and park staff heard a presentation from consulting firm Vireo and the Army Corps of Engineers.
John Grothaus, Corps section chief, and Laurie Brown, Vireo conservation ecologist, outlined the plan to return a swath across the central area of Platte Landing Park adjacent to the Missouri River back to its natural wetland state. Future park concepts presented by Brown show ball fields and the wetland area, separated by gravel walking trails and prairie grass areas.
The county-owned parkland, which sits alongside Parkville’s English Landing Park, has been under development for several years.
Currently, the site hosts a boat launch, off-leash dog park and walking trail, with additional improvements including ball fields planned for construction at a later date.
Lying within the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) floodway, options for development of the property are limited, Grothaus said. Not only would restoring the wetland make good use of fallow land, the approximately 45,000 cubic yards of material scooped from the proposed restoration area could be relocated on-site to serve as the base material for future ball fields.
Federal funds would cover the $2.8 million construction project with no cash investment from Platte County. Grothaus said the 25 percent cost match expected of local government was covered by the existing value of the land and easements.
If approved by Platte County government, the project could move into the construction phase in 2018 with completion in 2019. The Corps would oversee maintenance during the three-year early establishment period, ensuring the ecosystem worked as expected before turning the entire project over to the county for future maintenance.
Platte County’s current maintenance agreement with the City of Parkville obligates the city to handle day-to-day upkeep and maintenance, such as mowing and weed control.
According to Parkville staff, it costs about $5,000 annually to mow that section of the park, a cost Grothaus said would be comparable to ongoing maintenance costs of the new wetland area. Primarily, wetland maintenance would be comprised of checking for and removing invasive plant species that could take over the area.
Parkville mayor Nan Johnston said one of the concerns she has heard most often in the community is about mosquitoes. Residents are concerned that building ball fields next to an open body of water is a recipe for mosquito bites.
Additionally, the water would be only four to six inches deep at its deepest points. Once vegetation fills in the area, very little open water would be visible and natural wildlife to keep pest insect numbers in check would abound.
Platte County first district commissioner Dagmar Wood asked what the impact of flooding would be on the area, as Parkville is prone to frequent floods.
“Flooding is part of the natural process for that site,” Grothaus said.
Historical studies of the area showed little impact from flooding and other than removal of large debris the area should bounce back naturally.
“There is more likely to be issues for the ball fields and the trails,” Grothaus said.
Platte County presiding commissioner Ron Schieber questioned the wording of the contract with the Corps, asking if the county would be forced to restore the area after a flood or if the federal government could otherwise force the county into an unwanted action.
Grothaus said that although the wording of the contract could not be changed, a letter clarifying both the county and federal responsibilities could be drafted. He could not imagine an instance in which the federal government would intervene, Grothaus said, and stated the Corps does not inspect its completed projects for any form of compliance.
Schieber also questioned the long-term maintenance cost estimates.
“Just over the last couple years I’ve been involved in this, I’ve seen the cost to maintain this particular wetland jump around so much I’m skeptical,” said Schieber, adding that he had seen cost estimates of nearly $20,000 in annual maintenance, but now the estimate had dropped to an all-time low. “If this moves forward as planned, I hope this number is accurate.”
Johnston said initial cost estimates had included the three-year establishment period, which did have a much higher price tag. Later proposals rolled that establishment period into the Corps contract, she said, ensuring the work during that crucial time was done right.
With that out of the way, the costs dramatically decreased.
Parkville alderman Marc Sportsman praised the presentation and said the proposal was a win-win situation for everyone.
“The additional dirt to be moved a very short distance to get started on the ball fields is very advantageous,” Sportsman said. “And when you consider that the construction roads can later be turned into trails, it adds more to the project.”
Sportsman pointed out that the need for soccer practice fields has come in at the top of community polls for years, and the restoration program could go a long way toward making the fields a reality, as well as adding a wetland feature. Members of the audience also spoke up in support of the plan, including members of the Platte Land Trust and local business owners.
Mark McKellar, owner of Backyard Bird Center, said the project would draw bird watching enthusiasts from across the area. Earlier in his presentation, Grothaus cited National Game and Wildlife studies that tallied the impact of birding in the billions.
“This would provide an opportunity for bird watchers in the Kansas City area,” McKellar said. “People have to go right through downtown Parkville to get to the park and it will generate income. It really will. Birders buy things. They’ll buy gas; they’ll eat in restaurants; they’ll spot a shop they want to visit after they’re done birding.
“Just ask Mound City what kind of impact Squaw Creek has on the local economy, or Great Bend, Kan.”
Carla Dodds of the Platte Land Trust said the feature would be the first of its kind in the Kansas City metropolitan area and would offer opportunities for outdoor and environmental education for the Park Hill School District and beyond.