CLAY COUNTY — Parks and facilities across Clay County are undergoing millions of dollars worth of updates after years of deferred maintenance left some facilities in much need of repair.
The following is a breakdown of major work underway. Work will continue on many projects throughout the year. Funds for projects are being mostly covered by the sale of $49,150,000 in certificates of participation, a type of bonds, which a majority of the county commission approved last year.
“It’s really exciting and I get super excited to talk about these projects because they’re things people have been asking about for a long time,” said Assistant Clay County Administrator for Facilities Brad Garrett. “... We have things that have been those deferred projects for years before I got here, so it’s exciting that we can finally get to those things.”
Throughout the Smithville Lake grounds, a 7,200-acre lake located near Smithville, the county maintains two campgrounds: Camp Branch, located off Collins Road; and Crow’s Creek, located of Missouri Highway E. At the sites, there are more than nearly 780 campsites. Sites include spaces for recreational vehicles with electrical hook-ups and primitive sites. Campgrounds and other areas throughout Smithville Lake have been getting electrical upgrades in recent months and years and are continuing to receive improvements. Electrical upgrades to Sailboat Cove Marina, located of Chapel Road; and Little Platte Marina, located in Little Platte Park off Shelter Road at the lake, will commence after Labor Day.
Assistant County Administrators Garrett and Nicole Brown said electrical work is ongoing at Camp Branch’s D Loop and Crow’s Creek’s E, F and G Loops.
An issue that has plagued Smithville Lake and its visitors for years, shore erosion, is also being rectified with bond funds.
“Shore stabilization with rip rap will continue for a couple years,” said Brown.
In a previous Courier-Tribune interview, Brown said flooding this spring has meant some work couldn’t begin as expected but will take place.
“That is something that has been a top priority for us,” she said.
Tons of beach sand has also been added to swim beaches at the lake.
“After flooding (this spring), it was pretty rough. ... We were able to bring the beaches back,” said Garrett.
Families who visited the lake this spring during a family fun day, Garrett said, had pleasant things to say at Little Platte after the county improved swim areas, installed new playground equipment and continued its tree-planting program that added dozens of trees to green spaces in county parks at Smithville Lake.
New playground equipment in Little Platte Park, Brown said, was a hit with children and families during a ribbon cutting earlier this year.
“It was a really successful event where we had a lot of families come out,” she said.
Playground equipment is also being replaced at Tryst Falls Park, located off Missouri Highway 92 in rural Excelsior Springs.
Clay County maintains dozens of miles of trails, all of which will see improvements with bond funding. Improvements include bringing all trailheads up to modern standards, said Brown. Future work, being planned as part of the parks master planning process, which kicked off July 16 with an open-house comment session at Paradise Pointe Golf Complex in Smithville, will include trail connectivity.
“Our long-term goal, what we are working to do is to get all miles of trails around the water at the lake connected,” said Garrett. “Work for the planning is being done, but it will take years to come.”
Other bodies of water
In addition to millions being spent on Smithville Lake improvements, work to improve the lake in Rocky Hollow Park is also planned with bond funds.
Brown said work is being done to design a silt prevention and collection system for the lake.
“This will continue to the next couple years,” she said.
Rocky Hollow Lake, located off Old Quarry Road, has had ongoing silt issues for years, said Garrett.
“The north end is all silted in,” he said. “Even with the bonds, we couldn’t completely do everything needed out there because it is very costly. We are putting in a silt basin with bond project money. … Over the years, we will need to dredge it little by little each year.”
Dredging of lagoons in Crow’s Creek and Camp Branch is also planned with bond dollars.
Some of the county’s oldest attractions are also getting facelifts thanks to bond funds.
Pharis Farm, dating back to the 1830s and located off Missouri Highway EE in Liberty, will receive a new front fence.
The birthplace of infamous outlaw Jesse James however, is undergoing much larger-scale renovations. A contractor with expertise in historical renovations is working to make sure the site, located off Jesse James Farm Road in rural Kearney, seen by thousands from around the world each year, is stable and safe for visitors for years to come.
In recent years, Garrett said previous workmanship has failed. Coupled with year-round exposure to the elements, the assistant county administrator said major repairs were needed including a new roof and stabilization of wall and base logs.
“On the floor here of the structure, the ground was touching the logs and there was sagging so we have crews coming in here and digging it all by hand,” Garrett said, adding there are areas where the foundation is crumbling.
“We are also working to fix the grading around the home. … Everything we are doing is to make it more structurally sound,” he said.
Other major renovation elements include fireplace tuckpointing, wallpaper restoration and preservation and adding where some wood logs have suffered due to exposure.
More details work on the James Farm will be published in a future edition of the Courier-Tribune.
All of the projects, Garrett said, will continue to make Clay County an area where thousands of visitors want to come each year, bringing with them tourism revenue for the county.
“People don’t realize the amount our facilities bring in. People from all over the region come to our parks and facilities and then stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants. The tourism our county facilities bring in doesn’t just benefit the county, but the cities and businesses as well,” he said.