Park #6: Barrington

We finally headed west!  I am a total east-sider, but there are plenty of fine parks to be discovered on the other side of the big ditch.

As we only had a few hours of light, we went “small” and drove over to  2010 N. Tee Time.  You have to park street side, but there is a wheelchair/stroller/wagon accessible sidewalk on the west side.

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Why am I the only one in this picture?  Because I couldn’t pull the boys away from the playground for even a second.  They easily found two hours worth of activities to engage in with all the spinny-twirly play equipment.

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For the first time since we started this challenge we actually found other people using the park.  Two teenage boys and their younger brother joined Sani and Z-dawg on the spinning circle, making it a balancing game fraught with risk.  Z-dawg survived with only a little road rash on his chin.

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The playground has a swing set with two infant swings and two saddle swings.  There is also a larger play set with steps, two climbing rope contraptions, a slide, a small space for rock climbing, and a little seat under it all that is perfectly suited for a parent who wants to keep a close eye on a child or the child who wants a secret hide out from their parent.

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Other park amenities include a patio area with four picnic tables and a grill…AND two “pretty” trash cans!  Personally, I appreciate a park with a clean aesthetic.  Last but not least, the park currently sports some “street art” of a cyclops with a head injury who is coughing up a fur ball by smacking his cheek.

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When I asked Sani and Z-Dawg for their impressions of this park, their statement was unanimous:

Wwwwhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

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What do you know about the fungus among us?

After spotting some cute little mushrooms at Grandview Heights, I thought I’d share a little fungi information with you.

First, fungi are NOT plants.  They have their own kingdom apart from plants and animals as well as protozoa and bacteria. The yeast we use to make bread… that’s a fungus.  Lifesaving penicillin is also a fungus.  Without fungus, we couldn’t make beer or soy sauce!

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies that grow out of mycelia. Mycelium is the vegetative part of fungi, the part that takes in nutrients to create energy. Once the mushroom forms and matures, it releases microscopic spores from its gills which can then go and form new mycelium.

Fungi feed on both dead and living organisms, but they do not need sunlight to make energy. In fact, over 30 types of mushrooms glow in the dark!

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It is suspected that the world’s largest organism is a fungus spread over 2,200 acres in Oregon, creating a veritable mushroom forest all from one mycelium. This fungus is older than Jesus, at 2,400-some years old!

Park #5: Grandview Heights

This tiny little pocket park on the northwest corner of East Mt. Vernon and South Bluff can boast of three nice features.  (Parking is the same as for Meadowlark Park, but don’t forget that you can also take the South Broadway bus line that stops right at the park!) 1) There are two picnic tables with grills for small barbecue parties.  You can see Sani practicing his master griller skills.  Unfortunately, there are no trash cans, so anyone wanting to use this park should bring their own trash bag. IMG_3428.JPG 2) There are fairy houses!  These mushrooms made for a great impromptu lesson on fungi, and the boys loved feeling their moist little gills. IMG_3438.JPG   3) Tall trees!  I know it sounds obvious, but only now that I’m looking in a detailed manner at these parks am I seeing the great variety of trees our city owns and how much they influence the feeling of a park.  Just stop to think for a second about the value of a mature tree, and then think about how many are part of our communal property.  All of us who pay taxes and contribute in other ways to our city should take a second to go outside and just appreciate our trees! IMG_3444

4 Quick Facts about the Western Meadowlark

One of our last parks was named after the Meadowlark, as was my cabin on my first week at camp Mennoscah.  I’m sure all of you Kansans can think of multiple locations you know that go by the name “Meadowlark” as well.

Most of you know that the Western Meadowlark is the Kansas State Bird, but did you also know these four facts?

1) In addition to Kansas, the Western Meadowlark is the state bird of Oregon, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, and Wyoming.  Only the Northern Cardinal can boast more states!

2) You can tell a Western Meadowlark apart by it flute-like warble, while an Eastern Meadowlark has a simple whistle.

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3) Don’t look up in the trees to find a Meadowlark’s nest.  They build their nests on the ground, sometimes with a roof of twigs as well.  Be aware when mowing tall grasses that Meadowlark young may be nestled there!

4) Meadowlarks primarily eat insects and spiders, although they can also feed on berries and seeds.

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If this piques your curiosity, the Great Plains Nature Center has this sheet with much more information about the Western Meadowlark: http://www.gpnc.org/western.htm

Park #4: Meadowlark

Last Thursday I was forced to detour on my way to a meeting.  In a foul mood at the prospect of arriving late, I quickly perked up when I spotted our next park to visit! So Friday afternoon I picked the boys up and we headed straight to:IMG_3387.JPG

Located on the southwest corner of E. Mt. Vernon and S. Bluff, I was unable to get the address because (surprise!) it is another unlisted park.

There is no dedicated parking lot for Meadowlark park, so I recommend parking along Bluff either north or south of Mt. Vernon, or if you’d like a spot with less traffic, try the dead-end dirt road just west of the park, Reed Drive.

The Dry Creek detention basin runs along the south side of the park.  With a bridge crossing the creek, little boys and girls alike may have fun throwing rocks and sticks into the water to observe the ripples.

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Park Features: When I first spotted the park, it was the animal feature that caught my eye.  I had the boys guess which two animals they might see at this park.  Sani supposed that either a dinosaur or a horse would make a good playground fixture and Z-Dawg suggested we might find a large goose or snake.  They were both incorrect but totally smitten with the dolphin and the tortoise!

“We’re pirates riding our dolphin submarine down to the bottom of the ocean!”     – Sani

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This was also our first park with a merry-go-round.  Let me just say, I love anything that exerts centripetal force on my body.  It’s an instant head rush!  The boys clearly share that love with me.

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The park also has a curvy balance beam, this cool upside-down U-shaped ladder (so that you and your playmate can meet in the middle!) and a digging toy that allows for plenty of relaxing repetitive zen motions.

“We can practice our ninja skills!” – Z-Dawg

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As you can see, the playground surface is all sand, so bring close-toed shoes or plan to go barefoot.  This park has one picnic table and three benches, all of which are covered in splattered white paint for some odd reason.  If your children are like mine and love to find missiles, there are hundreds of hedge apples and thousands of acorns right now.

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While at this park, we saw that right across the street was another park that is also unlisted!  So we marched over the pedestrian cross walk and explored….

The Herman Hill Riot

There is a very active debate currently about the use of force, deadly or otherwise, by the police.  While we want to safeguard our families, our homes and our communities, we want those who protect us to use restraint, good judgement and egalitarian enforcement when in the line of duty.  Sometimes the line is gray, while at other times they appear clearly black and white.  Our communities are continually re-negotiating these boundaries of appropriate police behavior and so there will always be times in the life of a community where these limits are put to the test.

One such moment happened in Wichita on Easter Sunday, 1979. Herman Hill Park, which was undeveloped at the time, was the site of a rock concert that evening. While the park had room for just over a 1,000 concert goers, it was estimated that there were more than 3,000 in attendance, both adults and children. Neighbors complained about drug use and the noise level.

When the police arrived, they found many cars, trucks and motorcycles parked illegally on grassy areas. Conflicts began as they ticketed these vehicles and then a group of men who were serving beer from their pickup became belligerent. The altercation between the police and these men set off a three hour riot.

As the original police were outnumbered, they called for back up from the Kansas Highway Patrol and the Police Departments of neighboring cities. It was when other law enforcement arrived that they began to throw tear canisters. Concert-goers overcome by the tear gas fled into the near-by neighborhood where some people allowed them to shelter in their homes. Videos showed police using batons against some people as well.

In total, 22 civilians and 31 police officers were injured and 84 people were arrested. Some community members accused the police of brutality while others blamed the concert-goers of hooliganism.

Currently, Herman Hill Park is home to a Wichita Police neighborhood substation.

For more information, see these sources:

http://www.kake.com/home/headlines/Piece-of-KAKE-1979-275348651.html?device=phone&device=phone&c=y

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1346&dat=19790416&id=DYosAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8foDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7111,256800

http://dwightmurphey-collectedwritings.info/Ms7-2-RockConcerts.htm

Park #3: Herman Hill

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I realized while sitting in Sunday School that over a week had gone by since our last park trip… not a good sign if we wish to accomplish our goal.  So as soon as the bell rang, I picked up the kids, sped off to NuWay burger for a quick bite, and then headed south to our first “large” park: Herman Hill.

Dear Reader, you should be aware that there is a LOT to say about this park… and I’ve saved the best for the very end of the post!

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Location: 101 E. Pawnee

Parking: There are two parking lots, one on the west side near the Water Center, and one on the east side next to the playground.  Both are accessible from either Pawnee or Broadway.

A little history: The park was acquired in 1932 and was named after Herman A. Hill, the 34th mayor of Wichita from 1930-1931.

I had heard great things about this park from others but this was our first visit.  We were not disappointed!

First of all, the park offers lovely rolling hills with many trees that would tempt any young tree-climber.  The great number of cottonwoods (which became our official state tree in 1937) allowed me to show the boys how to find the star in the knuckles of cottonwood twigs (see below).  The boys were appropriately awestruck with their mother’s arboreal knowledge.

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There are also nine picnic tables placed under these trees, definitely a choice spot for family picnics!  For those after-the-picnic potty breaks there is also a small shelter with bathrooms, but I must say that the metal toilets will give your buns a shock in the colder months.

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As the sign states, Herman Hill is also a great place to bring your disc (ie. Frisbee) for a round of golf.  We unfortunately came unprepared, but this gives us all the more reason to return.  Sani took a few practice throws at Hole 11.

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Sani and Z-Dawg were most pleased to discover the playground.  This playground consists of one play structure that includes multiple monkey bar configurations, a twist-and-turn climber, chimney climber (the red tube-shaped climber), two pairs of slides with the tennis shoe markings that prove they are well-used, a suspension bridge, two types of rock climbing walls, an overhead spinning wheel, pod steps, and even a little rhyming reminder to conserve water.  All of this is placed over a rubber safety surface…which is a clear winner for parents who don’t want to bring home buckets of sand or chopped up tires in their kids’ shoes.

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One of the coolest features of this park is the Water Center.  Again, we were unaware of this hidden gem so we missed seeing inside the center on this day and will have to return on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 1:00-4:00 pm.  Apparently the center offers Family Adventure Packs that can be borrowed for FREE while at Herman Hill Park.  Themes include Up In the Air, Under Water, and Around Town.  If you’d rather do your environmental learning at home, there are also FREE Discovery Boxes that can be checked out for two weeks at a time.  Each box contains hands-on materials, environmental activities and story books.

Even if you arrive on a day when the Water Center is closed, you can still enjoy their many fountains (and learn why the fountains are sprouting all sorts of vegetation) and an outdoor aquarium.  The aquarium glass is dark and greenish, but if you get up close you will see fresh water fish of all shapes and sizes!

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A drum roll please… we have now come to the BEST FEATURE of Herman Hill Park!

Herman Hill has a self-guided Nature Trail with it’s own color guidebook!  Follow the trail and you will encounter water fowl, babbling brooks, birdhouses both man and bird made, neon-colored plants, hidden paths to explore, poetry, and multiple opportunities to learn about our water system past and present…which is actually quite captivating!  I am including just a little taste below, but it took us a whole hour to explore the relatively short trail as there was so much to do and see.

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Clean-Up Day at Chisholm Creek Park

A week ago, Sani, Z-Dawg and I received an invitation from our friend Tom to join the Wichita Audubon Society for their clean-up day at the Great Plains Nature Center. The Nature Center is located at Chisholm Creek Park, one of our family favorites for long walks. The boys were not eager to “work” at a park without a playground, but they soon found themselves excitedly spying all sorts of debris under trees, in the mud around ponds and in the tall grasses.
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Half of the fun was using the tools of the trade: gardeners gloves, mechanical grabbers and pinchers, and sharp stabbers.

“I’m goin’ in!”
– Z-Dawg (as if on a highly dangerous mission between the rows of cedar trees)

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The trash we found ranged from a birthday banner and pizza boxes, to the expected cigarette butts and beer cans, to the most fascinating remains of a burnt Holika (a clay effigy of a demon who tried to harm Vishnu’s favorite child, burnt for the Hindu Holi festival). One of our living finds included a very fat, very bright green caterpillar.
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After our work was done, we visited with members of the Sierra Club who had information about ways to support the environment here in Kansas. They also got Sani pumped to participate in Walktober activities!

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Park #2: Grandparents

The boys were ready to find our second park Wednesday night before heading to church.  Sani laid down these stipulations:

  1. The park must be near Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church.
  2. The park must be small enough to examine it thoroughly in 30 minutes.
  3. The park must be “new” to all three of us.

Our choice was clear.

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Location: 2700 E. Kellogg Drive

Parking is easy with three quiet side streets.

Grandparents Park is one of the newest additions to the Wichita Parks, SOOO new in fact, that it didn’t appear on the Parks and Rec website!  So make that 107 parks to visit…

It was dedicated in July of 2013 as one of the projects that grew out of the Visioneering Wichita initiative.  The AARP donated money and the city contributed land to create this inter-generational space.

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For the grandparents, there is an exercise station with clear instructions.  The station includes a chair and stabilizing hand rails.

I like the jungle gym with the pictures on it! – Sani

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Playground equipment for the younger generation includes one sand digger, one spring rider, two bucket swings and two regular swings.

Playground surface is sand.

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Star qualities of this park include its working water fountains, the joy of watching the great variety of vehicles on Kellogg while you’re swinging, and the seed pods that are great for a quick science lesson (if you’re mom) or for samurai swords (if you’re the boys).

Push me higher so I can see more cars! – Z-dawg

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Our one and only complaint is that there are these FABULOUS bushes that create a perfect hidey-hole for children…except that there is a significant amount of poison ivy within that thicket.  Poo.

All-in-all, we highly recommend that you check out Grandparents Park!

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When the park becomes political.

One of the additional goals I set for myself when deciding to start this blog is to do a little research and share some random trivia with you.

Little did I imagine that the first park would lead me right to the controversial Koch brothers!

Claude Raymond Lambe (1898-1981) was a real estate developer and insurance broker.  He was the agent who sold the Lambsdale and McEwen estates where the park is located for residential development in 1952.

Mr. Lambe was a personal friend of Charles Koch and had originally invested in the Buffalo Oil Corporation owned by Charles’ father, Fred Koch.  When he died, he left his estate in the hands of Charles and Elizabeth Koch, who then created the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation in his memory.

Who benefits from this charity money?  Why, the top 3 recipients are Americans for Prosperity Foundation, The Heritage Institute and the Cato Institute.  No surprises here.

Curiously, the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation disbanded in March of 2013.

* For those of you who love going down internet search rabbit holes, here are my sources.

http://specialcollections.wichita.edu/collections/local_history/tihen/pdf/eagle/Eag1952.pdf

http://conservativetransparency.org/donor/claude-r-lambe-charitable-foundation/?order_by=year+DESC#grants

http://www.forbes.com/sites/lauriebennett/2012/04/18/a-tip-for-kochologists/