SMITHVILLE — Kicking off its master planning process for county parks, Clay County held an open house July 16, at Paradise Pointe Golf Complex's clubhouse, 18212 Golf Course Road, near Smithville Lake.

During the event, tables were set up that represented various arms of county parks where the public could ask questions and provide comments on what they would like to see in the future. Tables staffed represented the nature center, trails, equestrian efforts, historic sites, camping, marinas, tourism and events, recreation, public safety, shooting sports and golf.

At each table were comment cards, which, after the event, Assistant County Administrator for Facilities Brad Garrett, said would be compiled.

“This is the starting point,” he said.

At the tables, members of county park staff said the roughly 40 people who were in attendance gathered some good information and comments were collected.

“It's been good,” said Beth Beckett, director of Clay County Historic Sites. “... We have some people who have said they've never heard of some historic sites.”

While many knew of the Jesse James Farm and birthplace, Pharis Farm and Mt. Gilead were surprises to some, she added.

Pharis Farm, located at 20611 Missouri Highway EE in Liberty, dates to the 1830s, when the Bell family migrated from Kentucky, built a log cabin and established a farm on the site. The history of the Liberty farm predates the Civil War and has been a point of interest to area residents throughout the years with the county hosting agricultural and other education events on the property.

Mt. Gilead, located at 15918 Plattsburg Road, includes a historic church and one-room schoolhouse. The first school opened on the site in 1835 and currently hosts education programs throughout the year to give students a day in life of a 19th century school setting complete with a school marm dressed in period costume. The church, which dates to the 1870s, is a special events space used for weddings, picnics and anniversary celebrations.

Park Rangers Randy Miller and John Davis said they received interesting feedback, including requests for boat patrol ride alongs.

“It's been good so far,” said Davis, who is the chief park ranger.

Comments from cards will be added to a matrix of information that will be gathered from future public comment efforts that include an online survey and spot interviews with members of the public in park facilities in coming months, said Chris Deffenbaugh, a project management specialist with Burns and McDonnell, an engineering, architecture and construction consulting firm hired to assist the county in master plan preparation.

“This is really the kick-off for that gathering of information from the public and the goal is for more public input,” he said.

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at or 903-6001.

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