The college’s request to build a 10-foot emergency egress path connecting the campus to Stoll Park was denied by the Johnson County Parks & Recreation Board of Commissioners.
The Board of Commissioners unanimously decided to deny the college access to the park. This decision was celebrated by neighbors and park-goers who vehemently opposed the college’s attempt to move forward with this project. For many, this plan was reminiscent of the college’s 2004 efforts to take over the park.
“This is a wonderful, amazing part of our community,” said Susan Sears-Gabel at an October listening session held at the college. “I’m distrustful because of the last time around.”
The college maintained that the path would be minimally invasive and used only in the case of an emergency, as Barbara Larson, executive vice president, finance and administrative services, said at the same listening session.
“The emergency access route would be used only in catastrophic events such as a gas explosion, following a tornado where a portion of the campus might be destroyed, or regular exits blocked or an evacuation following a violent intruder,” said Larson. “This is not for use for graduations, special events or overflow parking.”
Adversaries of this plan still maintained that the college should not be allowed to interfere with the park. Among those who voiced their opinion throughout the process was MaryAnn Stoll Adams, wife of the late Thomas S. Stoll, for whom the park is named.
“I question the integrity of Johnson County Community College on this issue,” said Stoll. “I understood that they had an earlier master plan which included road access through the park. I think this is just another way of accomplishing that goal. Which would greatly disappoint me and my husband’s memory”
Chris Gray, Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications, said the college maintains that the path is the best option and that it is not a foot in the door to gain control of the park in the future.
“While we are disappointed [with] the current decision, we will continue to look for opportunities to enhance safety and security on campus at [the college] and [for] our surrounding neighbors with an ingress [or] egress,” said Gray.
In the end, Stoll and many other concerned citizens got their wish as the college was rejected by the Parks & Recreation Board. The proposal was voted down 6-0.