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Wichita’s Pawnee Prairie Park Debuts $1M Improvements

City of Wichita
Pawnee Prairie Park in southwest Wichita is the largest in the Wichita Park system, and has been designated as a Wichita Wild Habitat area.

Wichita leaders are holding a ceremony on Saturday morning to show off improvements made to Pawnee Prairie Park.

The park, located off south Tyler in southwest Wichita, has long been known for its horseback riding trail system. Miles of dirt paths wind along Cowskin Creek and through abundant wildlife.

The trail system was renamed Plumlee Trails in the 1980s in honor of Marsh and Irene Plumlee, who were instrumental in the acquisition of the land by the City of Wichita and in developing the trail system.

The improvement project addressed horse-related needs, and it also added new features like a playground and a path for bicycle riders.

This is the first time bike riders are allowed in the park. The new bike trail connects the park's east and west entrances.

"There are specific trails just for bicycles, and then the concrete trails that we have out there are specifically for walkers," says Troy Houtman, director of Wichita Park and Recreation. "The rest of the trails are dirt trails and available for the horses."

He says the city added the bike route to balance the needs of area residents with equestrian users.

"There are several horse folks that I think will never be satisfied with sharing the park, but it was a true interest. A lot of families wanted to go out there with their children to ride bicycles so we created a loop," Houtman says.

The playground includes climbing structures designed to blend in with the surrounding nature.

Crews improved creek management, repaired bridges and paths and added trees. The park now has an upgraded equestrian parking area, watering stations for horses, pedestrians and dogs, as well as new lighting, benches and picnic tables.

The improvements cost about $1 million and took about a year and a half to complete. Funding came from the city's sale of the Hyatt Hotel in 2017.

Wichita City Council Member Jeff Blubaugh will officiate a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.