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University Park

University ParkUniversity Park is a lakeshore community of approximately 90 homes located on the west side of Tuttle Creek Reservoir, approximately 22 miles north of downtown Manhattan, Kansas. The land was originally farmland owned by Otto M. and Carrie J McAninch. The land was sold in 1959 to the Kansas College Endowment Association, Inc. which was a not-for-profit corporation formed for the support of an educational undertaking.

In 1961 the first residential home was built with the aid of dynamite to blast out the limestone rock in the hillside in order to build a walkout basement. At this time the roads were mere paths through the former pasture and farmland. Since this time, an additional 89 homes have been built and it still remains a non-commercial improvement district development.

University ParkThe University Park community is located in the beautiful flint hills region of Kansas and overlooks Tuttle Creek Lake. The community is bordered on the north and east sides by steep, stony land with 30 to 50 percent slopes that fall down to the adjacent lakeshore. Decades of fire suppression in this area have allowed extensive stands of eastern red cedar to populate the steep slopes and undeveloped areas within the community. In addition, the fluctuation of the lake periodically deposits a moderate amount of flood debris, mainly dead trees and limbs within these cedar-infested areas, creating a continuous line of fuel adjacent to the community. Additional fire hazards occur due to public access to the lake property and illegal fires on adjacent public lands. The south and west sides of the community are bordered by predominately native prairie that is occasionally to routinely managed by prescribed burns by landowners to maintain the properties as pasture for ranching operations. These prescribed burns also have the potential to cause a wildfire within the community. Recognizing the threat that wildfire presented to the University Park community, the Riley County Fire District #1 and Kansas Forest Service began taking steps to educate and protect the homes and residents of the community with fire prevention initiatives.

University ParkIn the spring of 2005, University Park witnessed the devastation of a wildfire in a housing development just north of the development, approximately five miles up the shoreline. Had it not been for the determination of the rural volunteer fire departments and Riley County Emergency team, the outcome could have been disastrous. If the fire had not been contained, it could have followed the overgrown vegetation along the shoreline to University Park very quickly.

The wheels of action were put into place. With the assistance and guidance of the Kansas Forest Service and RCFD #1 Station 10 Battalion Chief, a committee was formed. A large number of the properties have received parcel level wildfire assessments and a series of fuel reduction projects have been undertaken during the past two years. The assessments provide recommendations to landowners on making their properties more Firewise. Many landowners have worked hard to implement these recommendations and develop fuel reduction projects, fire protection measures, and develop defensible space. The determined work of the University Park Firewise board has made University Park the first recognized community in the state of Kansas. The program has been a key tool for reaching residents and homeowners with wildfire mitigation information.

Along the way, the following steps have been implemented to make all University Park residents safer from wildfire:

  • The University Park Board voted to have an assessment of common areas and to act on the findings
  • A Firewise Board was established to discuss a plan for conducting the assessment with the board, Riley County FD#1 Station 10 firefighters and the Kansas Forest Service
  • A newsletter was distributed to all residents highlighting the program and stressing the importance of participation in the residential assessments
  • A community workday was planned and carried out with 33 volunteers spending 168.5 hours cutting, trimming and stacking wood debris
  • 41 households agreed to and received onsite assessments
  • All participants received an initial onsite review followed by a written report of the assessment and recommendation for improvement
  • Over 728 volunteer hours were logged in the removal of fuel debris. Residents proved they were concerned about wildfires and doing something about it.

Future Firewise activities that are being planned include:

  • A Firewise covenant, being considered by the University Park Improvement District Board
  • Clear, reflective address markings on all houses within the community
  • Continued public education and outreach at public events and community meeting
  • Additional public and private fuels reduction projects
  • Community projects focusing on road sign improvements, ingress and egress issues, continued outreach to existing and new residents of the community

University ParkThe University Park Firewise Program received crucial support from the Kansas Forest Service, Riley County Fire District #1, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tuttle Creek Lake throughout the development of this program. It is with great enthusiasm that the it looks forward to continuing this partnership in future endeavors.