OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Original Post
A vote in Overland Park is leaving some residents excited and others concerned.
The city wants to expand the attraction by adding an amphitheater and hundreds of parking spaces.
Some neighbors are concerned about the possible changes, and how the arboretum is being managed. Those in favor of it are concerned years of planning could come to a halt.
Chengny Thao lives across the street from the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.
“It’s a wonderful place to bring your family to enjoy the outdoors,” Thao said.
She said on New Year’s Day she was there with her husband and found a lot of trash and dumping.
“I noticed that there was a lot of debris in terms of old wood, cement blocks, fences deteriorating that were just being thrown,” Thao said.
A representative with the city said they are aware of the debris. They say some comes from Deanna Rose for the soil, some from the Arboretum itself that is temporary, and some are left over from road improvements. They said periodically the trash is removed and dumped en mass, but there was no clear schedule on how often it happens.
Thao said she’s also concerned about changes planned for the outdoor space’s future.
“They are proposing to build an amphitheater and lawn space that host well over six thousand people,” Thao said.
Vicki Lilly with the Arts & Rec Foundation of Overland Park said this is not true, and the performance space will be for a number around 900 people.
“Not once did anyone ever talk about; well, we want a place for a concert for five thousand people. Not once,” Lilly said.
Lilly says the plan has been in the works for nearly 15 years. Monday night, that plan goes to a vote with the city council. She says a visitor center, more parking, new gardens, and a performance space are on the line.
“So many benefits to the visitors, to the arboretum,” Lilly said. “For it to be held hostage because they are afraid of how it’s going to be operated is unfair to the intention of the improvement.”
Thao said she worries what is to come, and if there is a plan to handle things like the debris. She says if they can’t manage it now, she doesn’t understand how they will manage more later.
“Is there going to be more garbage that we don’t know about that as arboretum visitors we’re going to run into?” Thao said.
Lilly said the best is yet to come if the vote is yes.
“I think it’s going to make the enjoyment for the visitors of the arboretum better,” Lilly said. “We’re not trying to make it bigger. We’re trying to make it better.”
For reference, an average night on their annual luminary walk holds 6,000 people.
The vote is set to happen around 7:30 Monday night.