Located in the heart of Kansas near a major city and bustling suburbs, Johnson County parks offer visitors and locals everything from arts in the park to sporting events to nature trails and visitor’s centers. The nearby town of Overland Park was named one of the top places to raise your kids by Business Week in 2000.
Johnson County is comprised of grasslands and forested areas and along with rolling hills. Many small streams make their way through Johnson County including the Blue River, Bull Creek and Tomahawk Creek.
Johnson County parks have a rich history of conservation and planning which began with community leaders looking to preserve the area and provide a place for families to recreate and enjoy themselves.
Officially named the “Bluebird Capital of Kansas,” Johnson County Parks and Recreation District was recognized for its efforts to restore the local bluebird population by the Kansas Legislature in 2000. Before the district began its restoration efforts, the bluebirds were nearly extinct due to the impact of local development and predators.
The parks district is the only Special Park District in the state of Kansas. It was designated so after World War II when local residents, responding to rapid development in the area, requested the state set aside designated green space. The park district is also a nationally accredited park and recreation agency adhering to over 150 standards.
Features and Focus
Over 15 parks make their home in Johnson County along with sporting facilities, senior centers and a premier outdoor theater. The Johnson County Parks and Recreation District employees take their jobs seriously and the system understands its vital role in the community as over 6 million visits were counted last year.
The Shawnee Mission Park is the most popular park in the area with a 120-acre lake, picnic and wedding shelters, and plenty of hiking trails. Take a stroll in meadows and along the streams the Ernie Miller Nature Center. Arts lovers will find a permanent place each summer to enjoy Theatre In the Park which has entertained audiences for over 40 years. Take in one of four popular Broadway shows each summer at prices that the whole family can afford.
If admiring the local flora and fauna is more your style, a peaceful walk and quiet afternoon in the Helen Cuddy Rose Garden in Antioch Park is in order. While you’re here, learn about the gardeners use art of xeriscaping to reduce the amount of water needed for landscaping and gardening.
If enjoying the landscape with a nine-iron and a driver is more your style, Johnson County Parks has two golf courses for the avid golfer. Take in 18 holes at either Heritage Park Golf Course or Tomahawk Hills. Both courses offer exceptional views and golfing and are open 7 days a week.
Classes and More!
In addition to offering some of the finest and best maintained parks in the region, Johnson County Parks and Recreation also offers a variety of classes and activities for the whole family to enjoy. Take in a yoga class or get moving with friends in one of the many indoor walking clubs. Take a computer class or learn how to design and build a robot. The park district also hosts parent’s night out events along with family fun days and backyard bird classes.
Growth and the Future of the Parks
Conservation is very important for all Johnson County area parks and so in 1999 a Chicago based firm was hired to plan and map out a course for expanding and managing open spaces and parks through 2020. Map 2020 was developed from this commission to create standards for the parks and plan for new growth and development.
There are many reasons why Johnson County is considered one of the most livable areas in America. Low crime rates and affluent suburbs add to the charm, but Johnson County area parks reflect the pride local residents take their in communities and their dedication to the environment and managed growth. Take a picnic basket to one of the local parks or hike along our nature trails and relax and unwind and find out what it’s all about.