After today, visitors to the Baker Wetlands can leave the beaten paths and observe nature from the middle of the marsh without trudging through mud and water to get there.
Jon Boyd, a Boy Scout with Troop 65 in Baldwin, organized construction of a 105-foot boardwalk at the wetlands, which he expected to complete today as the final step in his pursuit of an Eagle Scout rank.
Jon, 14, is the son of Jan and Roger Boyd, and his father is Baker University's director of natural areas.
"It's to show people what's out here in the wetlands," Jon said. "They could walk out there without getting their feet wet."
The project turned out to be a much bigger undertaking than he anticipated. He had planned to build an 825-foot boardwalk, but a shortage of materials and a second look at the work involved led him to scale down the project. Jon said he'd like to see another Scout or nature-oriented organization add to the boardwalk.
LAST WEEK, Scouts and other volunteers built wooden forms for the concrete supports, poured the concrete and hauled in large wooden beams, which were recycled from cross beams on utility poles and weighed between 450 and 600 pounds. About 15 people have assisted with the work, Jon said.
His father said KPL Gas Service provided engineering advice and donated the beams. Lawrence Ready Mix donated the concrete, and the construction steel for the supports came free of charge from Harris Construction.
Jon is seeking donations to help pay for the recycled plastic lumber used for the walkway. The Jayhawk Audubon Society is paying for a small bulletin board near the entrance to the walk, which will feature a map of the wetlands, acknowledgment of donors and other information.
BEFORE WORK started on laying the planks, Jon had invested about 140 hours in the boardwalk, which extends from the levee near the north gate over a small pool and into the wetlands. An 8-foot-wide section features a bench, also built from recycled plastic lumber.
Depending on the time of year and time of day, a stroll on the boardwalk could provide glimpses of five species of frogs, a variety of snakes, dragon and damsel flies, crayfish, 10 to 12 species of nesting birds, muskrat and beaver, as well as marsh plants and trees.
The north gate to the wetlands is just east of the intersection of 31st and Louisiana. Cars are prohibited, but visitors can duck under the fence to get to the boardwalk.