Lemon Park is the envy of cities in the area; it puts Pratt on the map, Blake Himmelwright told Pratt city commissioners at their meeting Monday evening. But it’s time to rethink the park, so it can continue to evolve.
Himmelwright reviewed a bit of history of the park developed in 1920 by his great-grandfather, George Lemon, who envisioned the wooded oasis it has become. Some might have wondered about Lemon’s dream for the many species of trees that thrive there — early photos show no trees along the Ninnescah River. Some first attempts were found to not survive the harsh Kansas climate. Trees that did survive were helped along with water carried in buckets. Lemon presented the park to the city in 1940.
Himmelwright has enlisted the help of an architect to develop a conceptual drawing that he presented for discussion and urged the commission to form a committee to study what is wanted. He expressed the hope commissioners could “find it in their hearts and in their budget” for some improvements.
City Manager Dave Howard noted that prioritizing needs and setting a timeline could be a topic of budget discussions that will begin later this summer.
Himmelwright indicated that an early priority should be the replacement of trees — sooner rather than later, he said. The mature trees need an “understory” of smaller species to provide interest. Some trees need to be removed.
Another priority, currently underway, is an irrigation project to help the new trees get established.
His drawing, which he said included a lot of elements for discussion, included an amphitheater on the west side, at the site of the former llama farm, and a central pavilion that would be at least partially enclosed. The town needs another venue for meetings and weddings, and it would have great potential for earning money or at least earning its keep, he said. A similar structure is being built in a Derby park, and Himmelwright suggested a field trip.
Other possibilities include expanding and improving the playground, adding a splash pad, a dog park, bike racks and a treehouse.
“We can’t do everything, but there are a number of things we can do,” Himmelwright noted.