Local Scouts pitched in this weekend to help create hiking trails in the Baker wetlands.
Baker University is rolling out the welcome mat and inviting the community into its wetlands south of Lawrence.
With the aid of a $2,000 grant from INTERx Research Corp., a division of Merck and Co., Baker is creating marked trails for self-guided walking tours of the 572-acre area, which is located south of 31st Street, between Louisiana Street and Haskell Avenue.
Roger Boyd, Baker University biologist in charge of the wetlands, said the project will add about one mile of walking trails to the half-mile trail already in place. The entire circuit should be cleared and marked by the first of the year.
That may be just the start of a larger project, he said. ``Altogether we have the potential for about six miles of trails.''
Although public access to the wetlands has been available for some time, the trails will make it easier for the community to use the area as a resource, said Robin Wood, a research biologist at the INTERx laboratory on Kansas University's west campus.
In addition to trail markers, the grant will pay for brochures, bird checklists and other materials to help the public use the wetlands.
Wood, who also is co-leader of Girl Scout Troop 605, brought the Schwegler School fourth-grade Scouts to the wetlands Sunday to help clear trails. Armed with bow saws and loppers, the youngsters helped remove small trees and brush.
``It's cool out here,'' said Audrey Pope, a 9-year-old Scout. ``You can see a lot of different animals and learn about them. I didn't even know there were beavers in Kansas and today I saw where they live.''
Audrey said she thought the project was worthwhile.
``I think that saving the Earth can be fun if you put your heart into it,'' she said.
The Girl Scouts were picking up where Boy Scout Troop 54 left off on Saturday. INTERx employees also have devoted weekend time to the project.
Wood said community and employee involvement were conditions of the grant, which INTERx made under its Champions for Our Environment program.
She said the Girl Scouts will be among the first to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The Scouts are keeping a journal of their work and will do work on several merit badges in the wetlands.
``We'll be coming out more to actually use it,'' Wood said.