Hurrah for Roger Boyd. He has finally come forward to admit that the land known for more than 100 years as the "Haskell Bottoms" can serve a dual purpose. One for the manmade Boyd Lake and secondly the South Lawrence Trafficway. He is to be commended for his approval of the SLT, after many years and millions of taxpayers dollars fighting to use a small part of that former farmland, for the badly needed trafficway.
Twenty-eight years on the Haskell faculty (1957-85), including eight years teaching driver education, provided me an opportunity to use the Haskell Bottoms roads hundreds of times. Barker Avenue terminated at the Wakarusa River, and Armstrong Road ran east-west south of 31st. Students began learning to drive on both of those roads. At times, dust would be blowing off the tilled bottoms farmland. A few days after the river flooded, we could use those roads again.
Wakarusa River floods did not leave Haskell Bottoms flooded, as now. It was the same as the farmland west of Louisiana Street and east of Haskell Avenue.
Haskell Bottoms land was farmed approximately 130 years before its present flooding. Haskell students farmed it for approximately 65 years.
Former Haskell President Dr. Gerald Gipp welcomed the new SLT as planned by the Kansas Department of Transportation. He announced to staff it would be safer for students to cross 23rd and would reduce noise levels on campus.
Michael Caron's statement in his July 4 Take A Stand article is not correct. He states that Haskell land was nearly all "worthless swamp land in that area. There was barely enough upland to construct dorms and classrooms." More than ample upland space was available to construct all needed facilities on campus, plus Broken Arrow Elementary School, South Junior High School, Broken Arrow Park and the Wakarusa Township Fire Department and maintenance shops, all later built on former Haskell land.
He states the 32nd Street alignment of the SLT will inflict injustice because it's "sacred ground to many alumni." It's doubtful in its present flooded condition that it's sacred to those students who hunted rabbits, gathered on the bottoms roads for "49" social dances, participated in rodeos at Haskell's rodeo arena, or practiced for rodeo by riding the "bucking barrel" and many other activities in the Haskell Bottoms.
In the July 9 Public Forum, Carey Maynard Moody states "Building the SLT makes sense if a sprawled, polluted, auto-dependent region is what we want." We already have an auto-polluted problem on 23rd Street, which makes the SLT mandatory.
I observed daily over the noon hour, over several weeks, an average of 50 tractor-trailer trucks (18 wheelers) going through the 23rd and Louisiana intersection. Those big rigs continue traveling through Lawrence 24 hours a day. The volume of tractor-trailers is increasing; two years ago, from the same vantage point, the average was one every two minutes. The SLT is sorely needed to get those big rigs out of the city to where they can travel at normal highway speed, when their engines are most efficient.
Traveling 23rd at less than 30 mph and stopping at traffic lights means those big engines are running inefficiently and emitting harmful exhaust gases. By requiring truck traffic through our city, we do a disservice to those trucking firms by lengthening delivery time, using more gas, causing additional wear and tear on the tractor, plus higher wages for drivers.
As a taxpayer of Lawrence, I cannot support Mayor Boog Highberger's initiative to build the SLT south of the Wakarusa River. That must mean he places a higher priority on fish and fowl than on his constituency. He should be supporting taxpayers in building the shortest, most economical SLT, which is through the Haskell Bottoms. Crossing the river will require two new very expensive bridges (when six already exist between Clinton Lake and Eudora), move several families from their homes, take several more years of planning and cost taxpayers millions of unnecessary dollars.
Since Roger Boyd has come forward and given his approval to use part of the Haskell Bottoms for the SLT, let's get back to the original plans of more than 20 years ago. Build the SLT through the Haskell Bottoms.