Workers have wrapped up a project to put the "wet" back in the Baker Wetlands, and a boardwalk to assist with environmental education at the 573-acre area is in the works.
Baker University, which owns the wetlands south of Lawrence, received a $12,000 grant in 1991 and an additional $11,600 in January from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Wildlife program. The money financed several projects geared toward countering flood control measures that have left the wetlands not so wet.
Roger Boyd, director of natural areas for Baker, said workers completed the projects about a month ago. The work included surveying the entire area to develop a comprehensive management plan, replacing drainage culverts with water control structures, plugging a mile-long drainage culvert installed in the 1920s or '30s, mowing brush and removing 40 acres of cottonwood trees.
He hopes the effort will restore the area to true wetland conditions with increased surface water from early spring through early summer.
"THE LAST rains we had finally started filling up the inside," Boyd said. "Now we are getting water in the pools we constructed. I'm real confident that it's going to work."
The next major undertaking at the wetlands will be construction of an 825-foot boardwalk, Boyd said. His son, Jon, is working with KPL Gas Service, the Jayhawk Audubon Society and the Baldwin Boy Scouts to construct the walk, which "will extend from the levee near the north gate into the wetlands, past several clumps of willows and loop back to the levee," he said.
Boyd said KPL donated materials for the pillars and support beams, and organizers hope to receive donations of lumber and additional materials from other organizations. The group would like to construct the walkway using recycled plastic planks.
"A lot of people have heard about plastic lumber, but haven't seen it used," he said. "This would promote the use of recycled plastic and help keep plastic out of the landfill. Also, it has a long life. It doesn't rot, so we wouldn't have to replace it."
Work should get under way on the first 100-foot section in August, but the group hasn't set a deadline for completing the project.
THE BOARDWALK will give children and others a firsthand look at wetlands wildlife. Depending on the time of day, an excursion onto the boardwalk could expose visitors to muskrat, beaver, crayfish, 10 to 12 species of nesting birds, a variety of snakes, and other animals.
"I think it'll give me an opportunity to take students right out into the marsh without getting their feet wet," he said. "I think they'll get a much better appreciation of it."