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Archive for Tuesday, June 21, 2005

32nd Street is best choice for SLT and wetlands

June 21, 2005

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I have a dream, a vision. It requires understanding, compromise and, for some, sacrifice. But the end result can be positive for everyone involved. I have a dream of the South Lawrence Trafficway being built on 32nd Street. This is right on top of the boardwalk my son and I and many of his fellow Scouts as well as others around the community built more than 10 years ago.

My father, Ivan Boyd, managed the Baker Wetlands from 1968 until his accidental death at the Wetlands in 1982. I have managed the area ever since. It has involved considerable hard work, a few mistakes, but through the years much of the area has been converted from poorly drained cropland back to a fairly decent wetland.

On early foggy mornings in spring and fall I have sensed my father's spirit as well as some of the Native Americans who used to visit there. I believe they would be pleased with the work I and others have done. It is through these encounters that I have searched my soul about how to proceed with the SLT. It will be painful to see a small portion of these restored wetlands destroyed again. But in my heart I know the mitigation that KDOT, the county and Baker University have agreed to is a good one.

If Mayor Highberger really wants to move the SLT along, then he needs to explain to the opponents of the SLT that a road needs to built, that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has legally and correctly chosen the 32nd Street alignment, that redesigning a new alignment somewhere south could take another 15 years and $10 million or more to study, and that if the current 31st Street is widened without the adjoining SLT the public access to this great community asset will be lost anyway.

Everyone needs to understand that losing 70 acres of wetlands along a 32nd Street alignment hardly destroys the remaining 500 acres. The benefits of the planned mitigation will provide greatly enlarged wetlands, improved access, a visitors center that will encourage thousands of children and adults to visit each year. They will be exposed to why wetlands are wonderful places and why they have been sacred to many people, including Native Americans over the centuries.

I know not everyone will be happy if the SLT is built on 32nd Street but we will never find a route that will please everyone. The chosen alignment of 32nd Street is the best choice in the 20-year history of the SLT. Let's move on so the process of healing the wetlands and our souls can begin.

Roger Boyd is senior professor of biology and director of natural areas for Baker University in Baldwin.

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