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03-12-21 | Feature

A New Lakefront Destination

Lake Olathe Park
by Hank Moyers, PLA, ASLA, Confluence

Serving as a new amenity rich destination for the city of Olathe, Kansas, this former golf course was transformed into a 378-acre regional park by landscape architecture firm Confluence. Situated on Lake Olathe, a 170-acre lake used for boating, fishing, swimming and other recreational activities, the new open space features a lake fed water feature, multiple play areas, event spaces and trails. The Eagles Landing to the left is a year-round, lakefront event venue named after a nesting family of bald eagles found along the lake. To the right is the beach house and marina with beach access and opportunities for water activity rentals. An event lawn between the buildings has amphitheater style terraced limestone seat walls with strip lights below the stone caps, and an open view to a stage area and the lake. A reclaimed water irrigation system was installed to conserve water for the 57,600 sq. ft. of tall fescue sod planted.
Serving as a new amenity rich destination for the city of Olathe, Kansas, this former golf course was transformed into a 378-acre regional park by landscape architecture firm Confluence. Situated on Lake Olathe, a 170-acre lake used for boating, fishing, swimming and other recreational activities, the new open space features a lake fed water feature, multiple play areas, event spaces and trails. The Eagles Landing to the left is a year-round, lakefront event venue named after a nesting family of bald eagles found along the lake. To the right is the beach house and marina with beach access and opportunities for water activity rentals. An event lawn between the buildings has amphitheater style terraced limestone seat walls with strip lights below the stone caps, and an open view to a stage area and the lake. A reclaimed water irrigation system was installed to conserve water for the 57,600 sq. ft. of tall fescue sod planted.
The new 6,500 sq. ft. Eagles Landing event building has a cantilevered deck spanning almost 2,500 sq. ft. over the water.
Starting at the highest point of the park in a formal event lawn, a terraced fountain pumps lake water 80' through a concrete, formal runnel. Concrete sidewalk step slabs were placed at the head of the fountain with a walkway crossing over the lower part of the water feature surrounded by an aggregate plaza.
Transitioning from the formal water fountain and runnel, water flows to a series of waterfalls, which then empties into a pond, filtering the water before flowing to a natural stream leading to the lake. Curved, limestone retaining wall slabs were aligned to create a formal yet natural feeling waterfall feature.
After emptying into one of the park's forebay ponds, water then runs through a natural stream of moss rocks and waterfalls as it makes its way through the park into Lake Olathe.
Flowing from the fountain, the stream curves around a sandy 'beach' and two splash pad areas providing a variety of natural play opportunities. Nozzles inside moss rock boulders (bottom right) shoot water out in the splash areas while water trickles out of a boulder in the sand play area (top right) for mixed sensory play. Slabs were placed over the stream acting as access bridges to each area and allowing water to continually flow beneath. Musical instruments, such as stainless-steel drums and tubular aluminum bells (top right) were installed throughout the area.
Flowing from the fountain, the stream curves around a sandy 'beach' and two splash pad areas providing a variety of natural play opportunities. Nozzles inside moss rock boulders (bottom right) shoot water out in the splash areas while water trickles out of a boulder in the sand play area (top right) for mixed sensory play. Slabs were placed over the stream acting as access bridges to each area and allowing water to continually flow beneath. Musical instruments, such as stainless-steel drums and tubular aluminum bells (top right) were installed throughout the area.
Flowing from the fountain, the stream curves around a sandy 'beach' and two splash pad areas providing a variety of natural play opportunities. Nozzles inside moss rock boulders (bottom right) shoot water out in the splash areas while water trickles out of a boulder in the sand play area (top right) for mixed sensory play. Slabs were placed over the stream acting as access bridges to each area and allowing water to continually flow beneath. Musical instruments, such as stainless-steel drums and tubular aluminum bells (top right) were installed throughout the area.
The lake features multiple recreational activities with a swim beach and an inflatable giant obstacle course called the Aqua Park set outside the designated swim area seen at the far left of the middle picture.
Due to severe drought in the 1950s, the city used the former Olathe Lake as its primary water source. As the basin was deteriorating, becoming mostly silt, the city planned for a new, larger source of water and by damming the old lake, now called Cedar Lake, the new Lake Olathe was created. The renovation of the former golf course followed, forming Lake Olathe Park.
Due to severe drought in the 1950s, the city used the former Olathe Lake as its primary water source. As the basin was deteriorating, becoming mostly silt, the city planned for a new, larger source of water and by damming the old lake, now called Cedar Lake, the new Lake Olathe was created. The renovation of the former golf course followed, forming Lake Olathe Park.
The primary park sign at the north entrance sits on limestone blocks placed above 6" compacted aggregate. The 12"x1" thick aluminum plate letters are welded to an aluminum tube embedded in the stone wall. Fastened to the tube is a hidden strip light fixture with a stainless spring steel mounting clip. An aluminum cut-out of the city logo is set into the limestone wall. Several other aluminum and stone signs around the park direct visitors to facilities and trails as well as pedestrian and vehicular signs.

Lake Olathe Park is a 378-acre regional park in the city of Olathe, Kansas with rolling topography, limestone escarpments, large mature trees and contains a 170-acre lake. Formerly a golf course and until 2005 a primary water source for the city, this site was transformed into a signature recreation destination in a four year, $20.4-million-dollar project led by a multi-disciplinary team including landscape architecture firm Confluence that culminated in 2019. The vision for the park was initially established by Confluence as part of the City of Olathe's Comprehensive Parks Master Plan in 2013. The park improvements turned Lake Olathe into a signature destination for the city, drawing residents and visitors to the site for festivals and gatherings, providing opportunities for year-round meetings and events and energizing the lake edge with activity. Incorporation of inclusive nature play elements at the signature playground and splash pad create opportunities for day long family visits. The reimagination of this golf course into the city's destination park facility now provides amenities to the City of Olathe that were previously unavailable in one place in the Kansas City region.

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The new park features include Eagles Landing, a year-round special event venue whose name was derived from the family of bald eagles nesting along the lake. The Beach House and Marina that includes an inflatable obstacle course sits adjacent to the Great Lawn, a lakefront amphitheater that holds 4,000 visitors for special events. Meandering through the park is an 1,800 linear foot water feature which is fed by lake water. The feature begins at the highpoint of the park in a formal lawn space utilized for weddings and other gatherings, and falls over 80-feet as it transitions from a formal water feature to a natural, stone runnel and returns to the lake. The runnel drops 14-feet from an upper pond to a natural runnel and flows through the botanic garden and two water play areas. Park visitors can enjoy splashing in water that shoots from large boulders which have been cored to allow a water experience in different ways. The splash pad area also includes a sand play area and musical instruments appealing to visitors of all ages and abilities. The park includes new restrooms, a fishing pavilion, disk golf and over four miles of trails that connect Lake Olathe Park to the Confluence designed Cedar Niles Park to the north, and the 2.5-mile trail connector on the south through a series of boardwalks over the forebays that eventually lead to Cedar Lake Park. Roadways through the park were realigned to pull them away from the lake edge and allow for an uninterrupted pedestrian experience while minimizing impact to the existing park.

The plan incorporates numerous sustainability improvements designed to preserve, protect and improve the water quality of the lake for years to come. One of the primary sustainability features includes a series of forebays allowing incoming stormwater to Lake Olathe to be filtered before entering the main body of the lake. Confluence took great care in maintaining important site features such as view sheds, drainage ways and existing trees. Through careful consideration of topography, the team carefully integrated building structures, drives and parking, trails and other amenities to maintain the essence of the sites. Consideration was made by the design team to utilize common materials, patterning and colors throughout the project. This is seen in the patterning of the stonework on entry monuments, walls and building faA?ade carrying throughout the project. The park was designed to create a harmonious relationship between the natural and built environments.

The built product is a result of extensive collaboration between the design team over the four year visioning process from master plan through construction. The rolling topography, lack of existing infrastructure and the federal permitting process all posed challenges throughout the design phases. As a result, 40 days of rock blasting were necessary to drop grades around the beach area almost 18' in the deepest cuts to allow for accessible parking and entry to the beach area, Eagles Landing and Event Lawn. In addition to local permits, federal permits were required to allow for the installation of forebays and islands to provide trail connections across portions of the lake.

Since its opening in the summer of 2019, Lake Olathe has become one of the most visited parks in the state of Kansas. Future activities planned for the park include 4th of July celebrations, Friday night concert series, movie nights, races and triathlons, weddings, corporate gatherings and family reunions among others. Through the master planning process, future phases of development have been identified by the design team with additional amenities including a sledding pavilion, additional special events pavilion and dog park area.

As seen in LASN magazine, March 2021.

Filed Under: PARK, LANDSCAPE, STORMWATER, KANSAS, LASN
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