The community is invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, to celebrate the completion of The Passerine Pavilion at Wells Overlook Park, about two miles south of Lawrence. The new accessible viewing platform is on the northern end of the park and provides a breathtaking view of Lawrence, the University of Kansas campus and the surrounding hills, valleys and farmlands.
The Passerine Pavilion is part of a collaborative project at the park that began in January 2020 with the help of a $44,000 Land & Water Conservation Fund grant from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. The project was spearheaded by Douglas County resident Ken Lassman, whose grandfather William H. Wells donated the land for the park in 1971.
KU Associate Professor Chad Kraus and his students in the KU School of Architecture & Design’s Dirt Works Studio designed and built the viewing platform. The project was completed during the COVID-19 global pandemic which was no small feat. “Despite the significant challenges of material scarcity and the impact that careful health protocols had on the productivity of the studio, this intrepid group of students persevered,” Kraus said. “As a result, the numerous pedagogical lessons typically present in a design-build project were greatly magnified and expanded upon. Through considerable effort, tenacity and grit, students were able to meaningfully engage with their local community and contribute something of value.”
Students completed the project in partnership with Douglas County Public Works staff who built the concrete foundation, graded the site and planted native prairie grasses on the hillsides. The adjoining native garden was planted by local Master Gardener volunteers. The viewing platform features wayside panels that were created with assistance from Douglas County Heritage Conservation Coordinator Jan Shupert-Arick, Douglas County GIS Analyst Tyler Fleming and Lassman.
“Douglas County and its towns were established by men and women with great vision,” Lassman said. “It was the hope of my family that the vista provided by the view from Wells Overlook that inspired my family could be shared with others who could be inspired to reflect on the big picture. This project ensures that people with all abilities also have access to that inspiration so that they, too, are part of our vision for the future.”
KU Architecture students now are working on the second part of the project – The Polaris Pavilion - which is an accessible picnic shelter at the southern end of the park. The picnic shelter is expected to be finished by November 2021.
Wells Overlook Park is located three-fourths a mile east of U.S. Highway 59 on the south side of County Route 458 (N 1000 Road). It is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.