Dirt work on the nearly $2 million planned Hays ARC Park playground complex may start as early as September, courtesy of the Ellis County Public Works Department.


Arc of the Central Plains board president Sarah Meitner on Monday evening got the Ellis County Commission’s OK for the county to do dirt work for the park.


The in-kind donation is valued at $12,637, Meitner said.


She cited a line item in the estimate of the Lenexa contractor’s estimate.


"We have quite a few businesses and individuals who will be recognized on a permanent donor wall that will be constructed at the facility," Meitner told the commissioners during a presentation at their regular meeting in the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main.


"We would love to have Ellis County listed as a donor in that leadership level, the $10,000-plus level, to recognize the dirt work, the in-kind work that the county might provide to us," she said.


Arc is looking at a September to October timeframe for the dirt work, which kicks off the official construction work. The proposed location is the city’s existing Seven Hills Park at 33rd and Hillcrest.


Public Works director Bill Ring confirmed for the commission that the work will involve a scraper and a loader, but beyond that he said he’s awaiting more information from the contractor.


The line-item estimate calls for some site preparation, including excavating to about a 9-inch depth, then repurposing the soil for perimeter berms.


"I think it’s a great idea, the project," Ring said. "If we’ve got three months to work it into our schedule, I believe we can do that, no problem."


Ring said he’s talked about it with city manager Toby Dougherty, and is also in contact weekly with city park director Bill Boyle.


The Accessible Recreation Complex has been in the works for just over two years.


Meitner describes it as a fully accessible play space for people of all abilities and ages to play both independently and together.


"It makes our community a more welcoming and inclusive place, and just allows for more opportunity for kids who might not otherwise have a safe place to play," she told the commissioners.


Arc has raised about $650,000 toward the first phase, which is the playground, she reported Monday.


Arc expects final approval from its board next week, then the following week will take it back to the Hays City Commission.


"If all goes well we hope to build the first phase within the next couple months," she said, "or as soon as we can order equipment and get it received."


Phase two is a splash pad and a parking lot, and phase three is an all-accessible turf baseball field, Meitner said.


County Commissioner Dustin Roths said the ARC Park is a perfect opportunity to build a park that will be used by a lot of kids, including his own.


"I’d just like to say how amazing it is that you guys have raised the amount of money that you have," Roths said. "Per citizen, every man, woman and child in this town, you’ve gotten 30 bucks out of every one of them. So the idea of doing that definitely shows that people want this to happen. I know of quite a few people that have dug pretty deep for it. I do love the idea of the county getting that leader-level because we’ll be using the taxpayers’ money to do that and we want them to get the credit for that."


County Commissioner Butch Schlyer agreed, saying, "I think it’s a very worthwhile project too."


Commissioner Dean Haselhorst directed Ring, "Get ‘er done."


Donations to the Arc playground complex can be made at haysarcpark.org or by contacting Arc of the Central Plains at 600 Main or 785-628-8831.