Thursday, June 11, 2009

Site for new South Patrol Division has historic ties

The land where the new South Patrol Division is to be built was once a major stop on some of the most famous pioneer trails in American history.

In mid-May, the city closed on its purchase of 25.34 acres at Bannister Road and Marion Park Drive, just behind the Home Depot on Bannister. (click on the picture to see a larger map of the area) The land cost $2.26 million and will house the new South Patrol Division, Special Operations Division, and maybe more in the future.

But the acreage isn’t just any old chunk of land. It’s the site of the Hart Grove campground, said Officer Rhonda Schulte, project manager of the site. The land is near Hart Grove Creek and was the campsite for many travelers along the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon trails as well as for the ill-fated 1846 Donner Party, according to the U.S. National Park Service. Swales, or wagon ruts, made by pioneers of days gone by are still visible there.

The new police development will set out to honor the area’s history, Officer Schulte said.

“This will be the first police station with National Park significance,” said Major Cheryl Rose, South Patrol commander.

Major Rose said she and others have met with U.S. National Parks representatives as well as members of the Three Trails Community Improvement District. Though nothing has been decided, Major Rose said the police buildings on the site will somehow recognize the area’s past, possibly through historic displays or incorporating the significance of the Three Trails into the architecture.

Construction on the new South Patrol station should begin in February or March 2010 and take about one year to complete, said Eric Bosch, director of the City’s Capital Improvements Management Office (CIMO). The new Metro Patrol Division Station at 75th and Prospect should open about the same time that construction commences for South Patrol.

While the new station will have a lot of history, it will have many modern advantages, too, including ready access to multiple interstates and highways. It also will be larger than the existing South Patrol, which was built in 1978. Officer Schulte said the KCPD has outgrown that station.

“For example, there’s only one women’s toilet for employees to use in the whole facility,” she said.

The current structure also has a leaky roof and inadequate locker room space, Officer Schulte said.

South Patrol won’t be the only police facility to go on the new site. The Special Operations Division will be located there, too, possibly including the Canine and Helicopter sections if it’s financially feasible, Officer Schulte said. CIMO has not planned a date for construction on an SOD building, but there’s a chance it could be part of the new South Patrol.

“We’re currently looking at the economies of one building versus two buildings,” she said.

Depending on whether voters renew the quarter-cent public safety sales tax – set to expire in 2011 – the site also could someday house the Regional Crime Laboratory and possibly even a new property and evidence warehouse, Officer Schulte said.

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