TOPEKA, KAN. – Shawnee County commissioners have declared Oct. 17, 2021 “Theodore ‘Ted’ Ensley Day” in Shawnee County. A reception for Ensley is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Garden House in Ted Ensley Gardens on West Edge Road at Lake Shawnee. The reception is open to the public.
Hired 60 years ago as the first superintendent of Shawnee County Park + Recreation, Ensley’s 52 years of public service have made him a legend. Ensley’s finger prints can be seen all around Lake Shawnee from his tenure with parks and recreation or as a Shawnee County commissioner. Lake Shawnee Golf Course, Ted Ensley Gardens, the tennis courts, the Rowing Association, Yacht Club, the softball complex, Bettis Family Sports Complex and the Lake Shawnee Trail all were constructed or had their beginnings under his watchful eye and administrative guidance.
In 1975, through Ensley’s foresight, the county purchased land for what now comprises Shawnee North Community Park and Shawnee County Community Park. In 1979, working with the Kansas Secretary of Wildlife and Parks, Ensley introduced at Lake Shawnee one of the first trout stocking programs in the Midwest. In 1984, the Shawnee County Parks + Recreation Department was awarded the “Outstanding Organization Award” by the National Association of County Parks and Recreation Organizations. The same year, Ensley himself received the
Distinguished Fellow Award from the Kansas Recreation and Park Association. In 2003, he was inducted into the KRPA Hall of Fame.
Those who know Ted Ensley personally know him to be a true gentleman. Those who know him in name only stroll his namesake gardens occasionally or even daily. The last person
to live in what is now known as the Garden House at Lake Shawnee, Ensley had a vision of establishing a rose garden. The garden began as rectangular beds of roses but the inspiration took hold with staff and volunteers alike and, with many dedicated hours by many sets of hands, the gardens were transformed into what some visitors have called world class.
In 1992, Ensley retired as parks and recreation director and took on the role of Secretary of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism under Gov. Joan Finney. From 1996-2012, he served four terms on the Shawnee County Commission.
Ensley has remained an active member of Friends of Ted Ensley Gardens and a strong supporter of parks and recreation. He continues to help raise money for the gardens that bear his name. He is among a select group of supporters whose names are on a Founder’s Wall in the gardens.
Shawnee County Parks + Recreation includes nearly 60 miles of trails, 2,696 acres of parks and 320 annual days of sporting activities. In addition, the department offers recreation programs, educational programs and golf. A combination of tax dollars, user fees and private donations enables Shawnee County Parks and Recreation to offer parks, sporting and aquatic facilities with state-of-the art features, and beautiful, nationally recognized gardens.