Posted: Wednesday, 19 February 2014 3:24PM
Evaluating Wichita's Watson Park
WICHITA - City officials are evaluating the future of O.J. Watson Park in south Wichita, and trying to preserve its rich history. Doug Kupper is director of Wichita's Park & Recreation department; he says city staff has been taking input from the public about what citizens would like to keep at Watson Park -- and if there needs to be anything new.
At the top of the list of park favorites: the miniature train, which has about 35,000 riders every year; another favorite among residents are the pony rides. Citizens have also suggested some ideas for new park features, including concerts, a Farmer's Market, and a Zip-line.
There will be a community meeting at 2:00 p.m. Saturday at Watson Park on S. McLean -- a chance for the public to look at some of the options provided by the steering committee.
The city charges user fees for some of the activities in the park; officials say their goal is to have 100% direct cost recovery at the park. Currently, Watson Park operates in the "red": it costs about $300,000 annually to run the park, but it only takes in about $150,000 in revenue.
Watson Park has been in operation for nearly 49 years; it encompasses 119 acres, including a 40-acre lake for fishing and pedal-boats.
About seven years ago, the city enhanced the train experience, tripling the distance the train travels through the park grounds. Now, the city needs to address the train itself, facing the expensive proposition of either rebuilding its engine, or perhaps buying a whole new train system.
The park also offers miniature golf, volleyball, and picnicking facilities.