Local Mom Goes Extra Mile To Make Over Southboro Park

By: Giang Nguyen Email
By: Giang Nguyen Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A Southboro mom is going the extra mile to give her neighborhood a make-over.

The southeast Topeka neighborhood is home to Christina Rondash, her husband and their two-year-old daughter Hazel.

"My husband and I were walking around the neighborhood and noticed a bunch of vacant lots," she said. "And I thought it would be nice, with our daughter, to be able to have a park in the neighborhood."

With a little bit of research, she discovered a park already existed -Southboro Park, an area of about 3.6 acres bound to the north by SE 44th Street, to the south by SE 45th Street, wedged between Michigan Avenue and Idaho Court.

The area is being used right now, Rondash said, but not in a safe way. Underneath the thick, overgrown brush that covers the park, soda cans and alcohol bottles litter the ground, and there is evidence of wood being burned.

Determined to make Southboro park into a place families can enjoy, Rondash reached out to the City and Shawnee County Parks and Rec.

They told her, they needed to know how neighbors felt about developing the area, and wanted to do a survey of the neighborhood first.

Rondash looked up every neighbors address on the Shawnee County Appraiser's web site and put it all together in a spreadsheet, she said, and volunteered to mail out 320 surveys on her own time and money.

"I would like to see this park built fairly fast and so I figure that the more I'm involved with it, the more I can help, the faster I can see it built," the busy mom, a program manager for the state, reasoned.

The feedback was mostly positive.

"I got like 94 responses, which is great. That's fantastic," Bil Riphahn, a project manager with the Parks and Rec, said. "And when you look at the subdivsion, those are great numbers."

He could see the need and went out to survey the area himself, then got started on drawing a plan for a veritable park.

"Once this develops as a park and starts being used by people, then it [will be used by] more families and kids," he said.

Only two of those who responded to the survey said they did not want anything done to the area.

Riphahn tallied the remaining responses to see what residents wanted.

"Number one was a side walk," he said. "Picnic tables, a play structure and landscaping," he enumerated.

There's a long way to go, the plan needs to be prioritized among several dozen other projects, a process that could take a couple years or more. But with neighbors who take ownership of their environment, a better park may be on the map sooner rather than later.

"This is government at its best," Riphahn said, "to work with the people to develop an area as they would like to use it." In that sense, he said, Rondash is doing the right things to help push the plan along.

With a price tag possibly exceeding $120,000, Riphahn said the next hurdle is funding. He said the county may include it as part of its capital improvement budget.

Rondash has thought of that as well and she already has a few fundraising ideas in mind.

"It's our neighborhood. Just personally I think it owuld be our responsibility to take care of it," she said.

"My goal is to be able to really pay for it completely ourselves. I don't know if that's possible, but I'm sure going to try," she said.

Christina Rondash has set up a Facebook group called "Lets build Southboro Park" to get neighbors together for the cause:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/460579777287857/


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