September 5, 2016
Miles-long traffic backups shut down the popular Grinter Farms sunflower field Monday afternoon.
A vehicle accident midday also contributed to the congestion, according to Leavenworth County Undersheriff Jim Sherley. He said traffic was backed up more than 5 miles from Grinter Farms. He said he was told traffic was backed up on U.S. Highways 24-40 as far west as the Teepee Junction near Lawrence.
Sherley said law enforcement officials were dealing with traffic issues Monday morning as well. Leavenworth County had to add another shift because of the traffic volume and the Kansas Highway Patrol also assisted, while the Kansas Turnpike Authority put up information on its Interstate 70 sign boards that the farm was closed later in the afternoon.
Sherley said the sheriff’s office didn’t want to deter a business from staying open, but when Grinter Farms operators asked what the law enforcement would suggest, Sherley said they were advised to close shop.
According to the Grinter Farms Facebook page, there was a possibility the farm would open back up to visitors later Monday. According to some who posted on a thread, the farm did reopen.
Some motorists were stuck in traffic for two hours during the afternoon traffic crunch, Sherley said.
The Grinters cleared several acres of land for parking to help alleviate people parking along Stillwell Road this year.
With it being a holiday weekend with ideal weather, Sherley said it was the perfect recipe for so many visitors.
Pat Vola of Olathe said at about 3 p.m. she found the farm “blocked off” after dealing with a long traffic snarl to get there.
“We were in line two hours,” Vola said. “We got there, and it was blocked off.”
Vola said she and her two friends enjoyed the drive from Olathe to the Kansas Turnpike and to the exit at Leavenworth County. That’s when the day started to go bad for Vola, who decided to take in the sunflower field after seeing a television feature on it.
“It’s crazy,” she said.
At about 1:30 p.m., Darrell Lamer sat in his idling car on the highway about two miles west of the sunflower field. He said he lived on Woodend Road in rural Leavenworth County near the sunflower farm.
“It’s never been anything like this before,” he said. “They’ve been doing a lot of advertising this year. They need to have sheriff officers up there directing traffic.”
The popularity of the sunflower field, Labor Day traffic and closure of Kansas Highway 32 between Lawrence and Leavenworth County Road 1 for construction all contributed to the snarl, Lamer said. There was no way emergency vehicles could respond to an incident in the area in a timely manner, he said.
“If there was a fire at my house, it would be gone,” he said.
Shawn Linenberger contributed to this story.
Originally published at: http://www.tonganoxiemirror.com/news/2016/sep/05/traffic-backups-close-down-grinters-sunflower-farm/