Jones Youth Recreation Park
Jones Youth Recreation Park is situated in the northwest part of the City between Prairie and Lincoln Streets, and Memorial Lawn Cemetery and 24th Avenue. One of Emporia's major parks, it covers 70 acres.
Jones Park was purchased in 1967, using funds made available by the W.S. and E.C. Jones Trust Fund. Subsequent grants have allowed the City to develop it into a beautiful and needed park. Planning and initial development began sometime in 1969.
When purchased, this was a semi-agricultural area of pasture with a few residences close by, but still considered to be more or less in the country. Development of the park included the following improvements: surfaced roadways, four shelter houses (one of which was donated by Mr. Roy Johnson as a memorial to two of his children), a comfort station, a combination concession stand/comfort station, two ball diamonds, a shuffleboard court, horseshoe courts, three fishing ponds, and a playground.
Construction of the structures was completed and maintenance of the grounds began in 1973, the year that the park was officially dedicated.
In 1974, Jones sustained very heavy damage from the tornado which hit the west side of Emporia. All of the boundary fencing, the ball diamond fences, the four shelter houses, and the garage were demolished. Also destroyed were over 200 trees, causing an even greater visual effect of destruction. In the meantime, the structures have been rebuilt and a large number of trees have been planted.
Jones Park offers a unique environment within Emporia's Park System. Although maintained as a park, it offers an uncluttered natural scheme. It is not overcrowded with organized recreational facilities and their inevitable concentrations of people. Leisure time activity can be created by the individual; his thinking is not all done for him. This is important in today's society, and many others who use this park have expressed similar thoughts. They enjoy the serene atmosphere, and it is amusing that often someone will relate how they enjoy Jones Park, but upon questioning as to why, they usually haven't given it much thought. After pondering the situation, their answer is almost invariably; the uncrowded, and somewhat peaceful feeling combined with the semi-natural attractiveness of the area creates their relaxation and enjoyment.
The large hill located within Jones Park heavily influences the natural beauty of the area. During the summertime it is left unmowed, resulting in an attractive stand of native grass which undulates in the breeze. There are several reasons for not mowing this area; the first of which is the fact that it is covered with native grass which will not withstand the mowing which the rest of the park receives. Close examination of the grounds reveals that the hill contains a tremendous amount of gravel in its composition which limits the species of grass that will survive on it. The appearance of the unmowed hill is somewhat deceptive as the grass itself is not as thick as what it appears. Efforts to establish grass such as fescue have not been successful so it is maintained by controlled burning. In addition to its attractive appearance, the tall grass effectively inhibits the growth of weeds. Past experiments in mowing this area to the heights other grass is mowed has resulted in a great amount of damage to the native grass, even partial loss. Also, off-the-roadway vandalism greatly escalates in frequency whenever the hill is mowed. This creates a very serious problem here; again, because of the nature of the grounds and terrain when ruts are cut by vehicles spinning their wheels and sliding around it is very difficult to re-establish ground cover in those areas, and on the hillside in particular, a great amount of erosion damage can take place. The results achieved mowing the hill have not been especially pleasing as to appearance, are time-consuming, and could be disastrous to the established grass which presently covers it.
During periods of adequate or heavy snow, the hillside at Jones becomes extremely popular with sledders. There are occasions when several hundred people are using the slopes for this activity during the day. We close off vehicular traffic in the park during snowfall periods to make the grounds safer for such recreational activities.
Fishing in the three ponds is a popular activity. The west and east ponds have been dredged and their banks stabilized. All of the ponds are stocked by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and their fishing rules apply.
A joint undertaking between the City and the local disc golf club has resulted in the establishment of a comprehensive disc golf course. The large size of Jones Park and the natural settings have done much to enhance the challenge of this course. This improvement has resulted in increased use of the park by a wide spectrum of the community.
The fencing around the unused baseball diamonds, all except for the backstops, was removed in February 1998. This will still allow the area to be used for informal ball games and as practice fields and will result in an overall improvement in the appearance of the area. Due to the conditions of the site upon which they are located, the ball fields at Jones have never been too satisfactory either from a maintenance viewpoint or as a playing field.
Jones Park is very popular as a picnic area. Many also use this park for jogging or taking a walk, usually during the evening.
Due to the very nature of its size, Jones Park demands a considerable amount of time for mowing and grounds maintenance. Also, the tree planting programs have been extensive, requiring continuing maintenance of the new plantings.
Due to the extent of the roadway system of this park, many people use it as a shortcut or as a place to drive at night. Speed bumps have been installed to limit the speed at which vehicles travel through the park.
Plans for Jones Park include continued tree and shrub plantings and landscaping and reseeding as well as renovation and maintenance of the fishing ponds. The major recommendation that I offer is that this park would remain as it is, not cluttered or over-crowded with ball diamonds and structures. To do so would effectively destroy the unique position Jones Park has within the park system.
Jones Youth Recreation Park is truly one of the finest parks that Emporia has to offer. It provides a place where the people can enjoy normal park activities; and most importantly, it allows them a place to escape, to think, and to create their own leisure time activity.
The park offers four shelters which can be reserved by calling the Parks and Zoo Office (341-4365), a handicap-accessible restroom, drinking fountain, playground equipment, a shuffleboard court, a horseshoe court, an adult swing and two complete and challenging disc golf courses.
An addition to the existing playground providing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant equipment, sidewalk and a fishing dock were added in 2000 with financial assistance provided by the WS. and EC. Jones Trust.
New playground equipment will be installed during 2018.