A KU environmental group calls for rerouting the South Lawrence Trafficway south of the Wakarusa River or scrapping the project.
Panelists at a forum about wetlands and the South Lawrence Trafficway on Thursday urged 45 people in attendance to join the dialogue between Haskell Indian Nations University and Douglas County.
The forum brought the controversy that has been brewing since October to the Kansas University campus.
Lane Jorgensen, a KU junior and representative of KU Environs, said the only solutions he saw to the conflict between the bypass and wetlands were to move the trafficway south of the Wakarusa River or scrap the plan altogether.
"If you want to look at it in the long term, it (the trafficway) is to develop Lawrence. The question is, who's paying the cost," he said. "Haskell is paying for the development of this community without their consent."
Comments from Jorgensen and others went uncontested. Organizers, including the Human Services Committee of the St. Lawrence Catholic Center and Haskell Student Senate, did not invite representatives from the county or the Kansas Department of Transportation to serve on the panel.
Scott Schulte, treasurer of the human services committee, said the county and state were beyond the scope of Thursday's forum.
"We wanted to structure a discussion that focuses on solutions," he said.
Haskell students and officials say the county has planned to fill about 12 acres of wetlands on university land along 31st Street, the planned route for a segment of the 14-mile trafficway.
County officials say the county easement on Haskell land, originally acquired for 31st Street, allows them to build the trafficway there. The county will make a formal response to Haskell concerns Monday, and school regents will consider that response Wednesday.
Panelist George Tiger, Haskell Board of Regents president and Haskell alumnus, said the controversy will resonate from coast to coast.
"It's come down again as a white vs. Indian issue," he said.
County Commissioner Jim Chappell, who sat in the audience, said the people he represented had voted to build the trafficway, and he had to consider that. But he said he attended the forum to learn about the other side of the issue.
"I'm glad to hear that people are talking about compromise," he said.
Tiger said he mentioned compromise only after being prompted by the moderator.
"As far as a compromise, we haven't crossed that bridge yet," he said.
Panelist Roger Boyd, director of natural areas at Baker University, said one wetlands should not be pit against another in the controversy. He ridiculed the suggestion of rerouting the trafficway from 31st Street and the wetlands there to 35th Street, across the Baker Wetlands.
Joyce Wolf, executive director of the Kansas Land Trust and conservation chair of the Jayhawk Audoban Society, advocated political activism.
"Too many people are cynical about getting involved in that process," she said. "A group like this has enormous potential to have an impact."