The Wichita Park System has come a long way since it was established in the 1920's by L. W. Clapp. Clapp's vision of Wichita incorporated a vital urban community with adequate public parks and open spaces to provide every Wichita citizen with the opportunity to enjoy nature without traveling far from home.
Today the park system is composed of 127 parks, including a number of public open spaces that total over 4,902 acres of land. A system of greenways, or recreation corridors consisting of small parcels of open space land, are planned to ultimately connect many of the City's major parks and provide additional hiking and biking opportunities to citizens. The Wichita Department of Park and Recreation acts as a steward for this land, as well as for the riparian and urban forest system, by maintaining the landscape of over 7,402 acres of City-owned property.
The Wichita Park System offers recreation opportunities to its citizens that range from both organized and individual activities at eight community recreation centers, nine swimming pools, and 53 athletic fields. It also offers recreation through its hiking, biking and fitness trails.
Parks and natural areas designated as "Wichita Wild Habitat Areas" make up nearly 30% of total park acres, and offer citizens an opportunity to experience wildlife and plants in a natural setting. Wichita Wild naturalists provide nature programs in many of these areas to educate the public about plants and animals native to the area. In addition, the Great Plains Nature Center, a joint venture between the United States Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service; Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks; and the City of Wichita, Department of Park and Recreation provides an education facility for the public to learn more about natural resources, especially the wildlife and habitats of the Great Plains region.
Botanica, the Wichita Gardens, provides the community with 9 ½ acres of landscaped gardens that appeal to a broad range of horticultural tastes. Visitors can stroll through a formal rose garden, linger to watch butterflies attracted to the flowers in the gated Butterfly Garden, or enjoy the graceful fountain in the Shakespearean Garden. The Downing Children’s Garden opened in 2011 and the new Chinese Garden of Friendship is scheduled to open Fall of 2014.
All facets of recreation, whether passive or active, can be found in Wichita parks and add beauty and enrichment to the lives of all its citizens. Park and Recreation Department employees take pride in working to provide Wichita with the best park system possible.