Wichita’s newest public park is open and ready for visitors — sort of.
Pracht Wetlands Park, on 29th Street just east of Maize Road, had its official ribbon-cutting in late May, though the park is still technically a work in progress.
It hasn’t even been listed on the city’s Park and Recreation website yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t check it out now.
The 91-acre park, which has been branded a rare and unique “urban wetland park” with the ability to attract tourists, is being constructed in five phases — the first two of which have been completed.
Now, people can walk over galvanized-steel boardwalks and watch birds behind two observation points similar to duck blinds. Eventually there will be a half-mile loop of boardwalk circling the northern half of the park with multiple such observation points and an observation tower.
Every year, thousands of migratory birds — including egrets and herons — stop at the park.
Cranes, pheasant, turkey, deer, badgers, beavers, and various amphibians can all be seen there as well.
It’s what Troy Houtman, the city’s director of parks and recreation, calls a “passive park.”
Think more Great Plains Nature Center than playground.
“It’s an area with a lot of lush, green vegetation, and all that stuff is good for the environment,” Houtman said. “It’s an opportunity for wildlife, birds in particular, to have a sanctuary.”
It’s an interesting juxtaposition.
Even as you walk through a designated wetland, the sound of cars whizzing past on 29th Street or Maize Road blends together with the birds’ chirping, and signs for HomeGoods and the Hampton Inn are clearly visible.
Those will be less noticeable as the boardwalks expand farther south in future phases of construction.
It might take a while for that progress to come, however; the total budget for the project is around $7.5 million, and just “a shade under $2 million” has been invested in it so far, said Bryan Frye, who is the City Council representative for the area.
The next time public funding is scheduled to be spent on the park […]