Written and contributed by Cait Bieker of Landworks Studio
* A special thanks to Landworks Studio for their continued support of the KRPA Women's Leadership Summit.
In a small city in Kansas, there exists a street with no sidewalks. Trees overhang nearly every inch of the road and the majority of traffic consists of feet, paws, and stroller wheels. Behind and between the trees are picturesque homes varying in size and color, all quietly and peacefully watching pedestrians enjoy the safety and beauty that the shelter of their neighborhood provides.
On this same street exists a small park, no larger than the lots that the surrounding homes sit on. This park has grasses that are evergreen and flowers that burst into color in the spring and fade into comfortable beauty in the fall. A neat and winding path greets park visitors the moment they step into it - welcoming them to explore each of the many features that await within its boundaries. The path takes those that follow it past shaded benches and wooden swings, on a bridge over a trickling waterfall, under the shade of large oak trees, and wishes them a safe farewell on their way out, beckoning them to return again soon.
Families gather here and watch their youngest members happily play.
Couples find space to enjoy moments together in the open air.
Individuals sit and take in whispered serenity.
And this park, so precious to those that it serves, is the gift of a private donation.
Kathryn Lyon Flora Park in Fairway, Kansas was a gift welcomed by both the City and the community. Donated by Fairway residents Paul and Susie Lyon in honor of their late daughter, Kathryn (Kathy) Lyon Flora, this park served not only as a lasting and loving tribute, but filled several needs of the community as well.
Fairway is home to several thousand residents. Prior to the completion of Kathryn Lyon Flora (KLF) Park, the city had only a single park to serve those residents. Additionally, the lot that KLF would eventually come to exist on was privately owned and vacant. Having been cleared for the previous owner to build a home of their own that would not come to fruition, the lot sat empty and unused. As neighborhood residents, the Lyons had watched as families and children in the neighborhood walked along the street with no sidewalks, learned to ride bicycles, walked their pets, and recognized a solution. They decided to purchase the property in honor of their daughter for the benefit of the community that the family cared so deeply for.
Individual donations such as this are not very common and not without reason. Private donations, while well-intended, can be tricky for cities to navigate. Outside of the sticker shock that can sometimes accompany construction projects, donors may have a vision that doesn’t fit the community’s needs. They may have unusual or impractical demands that are challenging to comply with for a variety of purposes. This can lead to the project becoming an additional responsibility the City can’t afford or can’t maintain.
Despite the challenges, private donations are largely beneficial to donors and communities alike.
Private funds allow for opportunity and meaningfulness to be invited into a new space in a community. From the perspective of the City, these donations allow them to accomplish goals that they’ve previously not had the resources for or to begin a project earlier than anticipated.
For the residents, it creates a place for them to spend time and make new memories. And for donors, it provides a chance to honor their passion while adding a lasting value to their community.
(1st image- Landmark Studio's rendering of park, 2nd image-Actual image of completed park)
For a project to be considered successful, both the City and the donor will have needs and desired outcomes needing to be met. The navigation of needs and wants isn’t often so simple, but it can be simplified. Great communication is critical. Understanding the goals of each party and a clear breakdown of how funds will be used is a top priority early in the process.
Discussion of how involved the donor would like to be should also happen fairly early on - clear responsibilities and common understanding can ease confusion further into the project. Most importantly, both sides must agree on, and work towards, the same final outcome.
Kathryn Lyon Flora Park is a testament to what a successful, privately-funded project can be. It is a place that fills the needs of a community, wholly. Now, it will serve as a landmark and a haven for its patrons for years to come. The street still has no sidewalks, but there is satisfaction in knowing those that take it now have a destination.