The city's newest park combines outdoor nature experience with indoor educational programs.
Come rain or shine, children and adults will find plenty to do when Lawrence's new 71-acre Prairie Park Nature Center celebrates its grand opening Saturday.
The park, at 2730 Harper in southeast Lawrence, will offer a host of indoor and outdoor activities. The activities will range from tagging migratory butterflies or hiking the trails in Prairie Park, to viewing displays of both live and stuffed snakes, fish and other native Kansas animals in the 5,500 square-foot nature center.
Lawrence city officials will officially dedicate the park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
"I feel this is a very unique nature center," said Kathy Fode, recreation superintendent for the Lawrence Parks and Recreation department. "I think the community is going to be very excited about it."
The park and nature center will offer a number of fee-based educational programs and activities designed mainly for children.
The staff is led by Marty Birrell, nature interpretive supervisor for the park, who was selected from among 61 applicants for the new position. She most recently served as director of the Stone Nature Center in Topeka, a 372-acre preserve operated by the Villages, a group care facility for children in foster care.
Although it is called a "prairie park," Birrell said many of its features actually resemble a wetlands.
"It's really a wet prairie," she said.
More than 150 species of plants can be found in the seven acres of virgin prairie just outside the nature center, Birrell said. Beyond the grass, trails lead hikers through dozens of acres of mature hardwood trees, and around the banks of Mary's Lake, which is stocked with fish by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
The first regular programs at Prairie Park Nature Center begin Sunday and Monday as researchers from Monarch Watch continue to tag butterflies migrating across Kansas. For a $3 fee, participants will get a certificate with tag numbers, which they can then use on the Internet to find out whether their butterflies get recaptured elsewhere in the country.
Lawrence acquired the park land in three separate parcels between 1985 and 1991, DeVictor said. Since then, it has spent about $950,000 developing the park and building the nature center. Funds for the park came from the city's share of a 1-cent countywide sales tax that voters approved in 1994.
The park's regular hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The park is closed on Mondays, except for Sept. 20. It will be open for the Butterfly Adventures program.
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The Prairie Park Nature Center, 2730 Harper, will have a grand opening celebration Saturday. Here is the schedule of events: