A southern Leavenworth County farm's sunflower fields attracted more than 100,000 visitors last year.
A southern Leavenworth County farm’s sunflower fields attracted more than 100,000 visitors last year.
And county officials are making plans to deal with the traffic and other issues related to this year’s visitors to Grinter Farms, 24154 Stillwell Road.
This year’s crop of sunflowers will be planted this month, according to the Grinter Farms Facebook page.
The county’s preparation for the crowds the sunflowers may draw was discussed Thursday during a meeting of the Leavenworth County Commission.
Commissioners were conducting a department head meeting when Chairman Doug Smith raised the issue.
“This is a big deal for the county,” Smith said.
County Administrator Mark Loughry said the sunflower fields attracted about 150,000 people during Labor Day weekend last year, causing significant traffic backups.
In addition to traffic concerns, the large number of visitors causes health and safety concerns, Loughry said.
He said county officials are trying to work out a traffic control plan.
“We’ll do the best that we can,” he said.
Loughry said it is his understanding the owners of the farm plan to stagger the planting of sunflowers this year for a longer season.
Commissioner Bob Holland asked if Grinter Farms has land to use for parking.
Jeff Joseph, director of planning and zoning, said the farm has 15 acres that are used for parking. But rainfall during that period could make it difficult to use the area for parking.
Holland asked if the owners of the farm want to place gravel over the parking area. He suggested the county could help with this.
Loughry said he believes these 15 acres are used for other purposes the rest of the year. He said it is used for parking for only a couple of weeks.
Leavenworth County Emergency Management Director Chuck Magaha said state officials have been contacted about posting messages on Interstate 70 to direct drivers to alternate routes to Grinter Farms instead of exiting onto 222nd Street near Tonganoxie.
Magaha said his biggest concern is that drivers will follow the routes suggested by their GPS units.
John Matthews, who serves on the county’s Planning Commission, asked if the County Commission can create an event tax to help pay the county’s expenses.
County Counselor Mollie Hill said Grinter Farms does not charge admission to visit the sunflower fields, but donations are accepted.
Hill said she considered whether the county should require a temporary special use permit for the event, but she feels this would not apply in this case.
Smith said he is sure county staff members will come up with a plan. The chairman said he does not want to turn people away from the county.
“Labor Day is going to be here before you know it,” he said.