A small group of city staff, council members and community patrons got a sneak peak at Derby’s latest parks addition – Decarsky Park (west of the intersection of Line Drive and Rock Road) – on July 9. Featuring a dog park, multiple ball fields and more, the park is slated to partially open in fall 2020.
The dog park will be the first amenity of phase one construction open to the public, with multiple features set up on three acres of land – including an agility course with six obstacles, two large and small dog yards (1.4 acres each) with built-in water bubblers, shade structures, drinking fountains, a washing station and more.
Director of Parks Steve White stated that all the yards are irrigated, with the agility course lined with artificial turf to help wash out urine and control odors. Additionally, there will be two separate entrances to the agility course and a “penalty box” along one of the yards to help control behavioral issues among canine visitors. Design (which began in 2017) was also addressed to prevent entrapment corners in any of the yards.
One of the more unique features is the floating dock on the retention pond installed in phase one that will also be utilized as a training area for hunting dogs – with no human swimming or fishing allowed.
“It’s going to be exciting to see how people use this facility out here,” White said.
Hours of operation for the dog park will be sunrise to sunset, with plans to close the park on Monday mornings to allow for routine maintenance, according to White.
Following the opening of the dog park, the plan is for the four ball fields included in phase one of the Decarsky Park project to be available for use starting in spring 2021.
With four fields at Decarsky park, there would be the potential to host a number of tournaments at the facility – which City Manager Kathy Sexton noted the Derby Recreation Commission is already researching. Additionally, with the structure of the fields (drainage, infield turf, etc.) it was pointed out that rainouts would be less of a factor in the future.
“Usually rain puts us out for a couple days with our fields,” Sexton said.
“This will allow us to get playing much, much quicker,” White said. “It can rain several inches an hour and it’s not going to jeopardize the playing condition.”
Along the fields, a number of structures have been implemented for safety and comfort of players and fans alike (i.e., vented dugouts, shaded bleachers, etc.). There will also be two double batting cages adjacent to the fields, a picnic shelter, a concession stand near the entrance to the ball fields with additional patio seating, three restrooms (which can be used year-round) and a maintenance shed with showers for umpires.
Landscaping was also heavily factored into the Decarsky Park project, with 200-plus new trees planted at the facility (featuring 27 different species native or adaptive to Kansas) – with a number lining the entrance plaza between the two parking lots. White also pointed out that the Latitude 36 Bermuda grass featured in the park (in the dog yards, outfields, etc.) is the same grass used by the Wichita Wind Surge in their new stadium and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Phase one of the project came to a total of $7.1 million, funded by the Derby Difference Sales Tax, with a number of contributions from other community partners – like the Derby Recreation Commission (for a fourth ball field), the Rotary Club of Derby and Derby Community Foundation.
Additionally, Sexton stated that Vicky Decarsky’s donation of land (valued at $800,000) for the park was the single largest gift the city has received for a project. That included 63 acres of land total – with 33 set aside for phase two of the Decarsky Park project.
Derby’s Parks Department will readdress its master plan in 2022, helping to shape phase two of the Decarsky Park project. Currently, there are plans to add an additional parking lot and four more ball fields, but that could all change depending on usage of the phase one amenities.
“Everything’s on the table; you just need to get the funding source,” Sexton said.
Usage of other city fields will factor into those phase two plans and what additional work is done, but for city staff and council members getting to preview Decarsky Park there is a feeling the project is off to a good start.
“I can hardly wait for you to open it,” said Derby City Council member Jack Hezlep.
“This is going to be another one of those things that Derby’s going to do pretty well,” said Mayor Randy White.
“I think phase one will meet a lot of needs,” Sexton said, “and impress a lot of people.”
Youth taking cooking lessons as part of the Hubbard Arts Center’s summer programing may see a familiar face, as Angelika Koch – a member of USD 260’s food service department – is among the roster of instructors leading courses in The Kitchen.
Having had a table at the Let’s Diabeat This expo since its inception, Koch was introduced to Derby Recreation Commission Community Wellness Coordinator Debbie Williams (the staff member in charge of The Kitchen). Taking one of Williams’ diabetes management classes, Koch came to know her better and the ideals that would help give birth to The Kitchen.
“She’d mentioned it’d be nice if we could teach people because lots of times in these classes people always ask ‘how do I cook a different way,’” Koch said.
When The Kitchen was set to open for classes, Williams recruited Koch as an instructor – an opportunity she took with no reservations given her history in the food service industry.
As a member of the USD 260 food service department (since 1999), Koch manages the cafeteria at Derby High School. Holding that position, she oversees all the food preparation at the school, which means she has to instruct the new employees.
Familiar with such a position already, Koch joined The Kitchen as an instructor in an effort to continue the mission of some of those programs through which she came to know Williams.
“Basically, what I want to teach is healthier eating,” Koch said. “You’d be surprised how many people don’t know what to do with fresh ingredients and that there’s so many things they think they need to get at restaurants they can very easily do at home.”
Growing up in Germany, Koch had a much different experience with restaurants than in America – with most of the kitchens she worked in being traditional rather than fast food. Her brother was an apprentice at a high-end restaurant in Germany and helped get her a job at the age of 15, beginning her long career in the food service industry.
Koch worked part-time at several restaurants as a teenager and even worked her way through Italy at the age of 17 – paying for her trip by taking jobs at restaurants and trattorias along the way, learning how to make fresh pasta and more.
Through that experience, the focus on healthy eating become ingrained in Koch (who noted there are a lot of salads on the menu in Mediterranean cuisine) – something she wants to bring to her lessons in The Kitchen.
“In Europe, you eat a lot more fresh foods than here,” Koch said. “Here it’s pre-prepped or comes out of a box, and fresh is always better.”
Courses Koch will be leading at The Kitchen range from classes on Mexican to Italian to German cuisine, teaching students of all ages. For a full listing, visit derbyrec.com.
While Koch is looking forward to teaching participants how to make traditional German dishes like red cabbage and spaetzle on July 17, she admitted she hopes to lead additional classes in the future focused even more on the basics – not necessarily on cooking – like a course on knife skills.
“A lot of people get hurt because they don’t know exactly what they’re doing,” Koch said. “Like every job you do, there’s little tricks to it to make it safe.”
Others may think it’s work, but given her passion for cooking and teaching Koch noted serving as an instructor with The Kitchen is fun for her.
Noting that she enjoys watching people eat what she makes, Koch said she is hopeful participants will take some similar lessons from her classes and that she can get them to experiment and branch out a little more.
“Everybody’s in a rut. They eat the same maybe 10 different things or everybody has the Taco Tuesday where every Tuesday they have to have the tacos. Well, let’s try a crunch wrap instead. Let’s take all this and make it more exciting; make it new again,” Koch said. “I hope they’ll embrace it and keep trying new things.”