Archive for Tuesday, January 31, 2006

New path will blaze trail to lake landmark

Proposed walkway would link Sander’s Mound at Clinton to South Lawrence Trafficway trail

January 31, 2006


Rebecca Snyder on Monday could only wonder how beautiful the view was from atop Sander's Mound, which overlooks the blue-gray waters of Clinton Lake.

"We didn't make it to the top today," said Snyder, who was walking with a friend along a beaten-down grass trail near the Clinton Lake Dam. "It was just too muddy."

Soon, mud shouldn't stop anyone from partaking in what some area nature buffs have said is the most striking vista of Clinton Lake available. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with the city's Parks and Recreation Department and the Kansas Trails Council, have been awarded a $171,000 federal grant to build a new one-mile concrete trail to the site.

The new trail will connect with the city's existing trail system that runs along the South Lawrence Trafficway, but ends before it crosses the west side of the Clinton Lake Dam Road. The new trail - which will be 10 feet wide like the existing SLT trail - also will provide an easy way for hikers and bikers to access the lake's 23-mile Northshore Trail system that runs throughout the state park area.

"I think the most positive benefit will be that it will link two trails together and link two sets of recreational areas together," said Mike Goodwin, president of the Kansas Trails Council. "Once it is completed, somebody would be able to hike or bike all the way from south Lawrence deep into the Clinton Lake area."

Willem Helms, a park ranger who planned the project for the Corps of Engineers, said construction on the trail likely would begin in late summer and be completed before the end of the year. He said he thought the trail would open the mound up to many new users because it is adjacent to the lake's Overlook Park area. Many users of the Overlook Park see the mound but don't venture to the top of the hill because cutting through the tall native grasses that surround the mound can be difficult.

"You need to bring your boots," Snyder said.

But once you get to the top, the view is worth it, Helms said. The mound gives visitors a birds-eye view of much of the lake's 7,000 acres of water and its shore that is lined with woods and patches of prairie.

"In my book, the mound offers the most breathtaking vistas of the entire area," Helms said.

The trail, though, will only take hikers to the base of the mound. Helms said the project partners decided against taking the trail up the hill because they were concerned about damage it could do to the grasses, which include remnants of the area's native prairie.

Some visitors to the site on Monday, though, said they liked the primitive nature of the area.

"I kind of like it the way it is," said Erin Stanley, who was visiting the area Monday from Seattle. "A concrete path would maybe be a little too manicured for me."

Several nonconcrete trails, including some up to the top of the mound, will remain.

The trail will be funded through a program administered by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, which receives funding for the grant program from the Federal Highway Administration.


blessed3x 12 years, 4 months ago

I agree. I've taken my kids up there dozens of times. It's a great view that would definitely be spoiled by a concrete sidewalk. If they feel they must do something, how about a mulched trail. I'm sure you could even get a few of the local boy scout troops to do most of the work for free.

The only bad experience I've ever had there was throwing my then-2-year-old son in the backpack carrier and grabbing my older son and hiking up and over the mound all the way to the waters edge only to discover that an indiscriminate couple had decided that the picnic table by the water was a suitable place to...



whip out moose and squirrel and let nature take its course.

badger 12 years, 4 months ago

(sorry, couldn't resist the Bullwinkle joke...)

I don't know. If it gets critically muddy during the year, a trail is a better option.

Indiscriminate foot traffic increases erosion, whereas a concrete trail, by confining the majority of traffic to an area that can't erode, may preserve the surrounding grassland better.

Dirt trails, in damp areas, seem to become runoff washes, eroding a little more each time it rains and causing the hikers and bikers to walk next to them, widening the area of killed vegetation and increasing the size of the wash the next time it rains.

Bikes tear up plants and powder the soil where they were. Having a concrete or gravel trail where bikes, horses, and hikers can travel without increasing erosion is probably a pretty sound environmental move.

If it makes a local trail more accessible to the mobility-challenged or the slightly less motivated, then that's even better.

RonBurgandy 12 years, 4 months ago

I don't know, I see advantages to both arguments. It seems like a lot of money to put towards a trail though. If people really wanted to see it, then they could fight the mud. But for bikes and parents with their children, a trail would be much easier.

If it mattered, I would probably vote nay on this though.

Mike Curtis 12 years, 4 months ago

If you think the view is nice now, you should have seen it before they built that " beautiful" lake in a valley of productive farms. Mr. Sanders, by the way, died when he fell off a ladder while painting his barn, trying to get the most from the "sale" of this property to the Army Corp of Engineers [who built the lake]. - A little local triva.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 4 months ago

I say no to a concrete trail. Leave it alone or make a trail of pervious material. We have made the journey a few zillion time as well...night and day. Who cares about a little mud now and then. Mud washes off. Who are we catering to anyway. I've never heard of anyone wishing for a concrete walk to this beautiful overlook. Is this for someone's portfoilo/resume?

badger 12 years, 4 months ago

Merrill said:

"Mud washes off."

With erosion, that's exactly the problem. The mud washes off.

If there were no trail at all and no one walked there to flatten and kill the plants and pack and powder the soil, there wouldn't be a problem with erosion because the plants that are supposed to hold soil in place would be doing so. But if there are enough people 'making the journey' that it's a dirt or mud trail, you are damaging the land in ways it won't soon recover from, and your 'muddy path' will eventually be a nasty scar; it will only get worse as the area gets more popular. A concrete trail will limit the number of people walking on and trampling the grass regularly, and it will provide a clear erosion-proof path for hikers and bikers. Those who wish to walk 'off the beaten path' still can, because single passes across an area won't be enough to lay a path.

Ten feet is wide enough for a bike to safely pass a walking couple, by the way. Things like that may have played a part in this decision, you know.

A mile is also a good distance to take a child in a wheelchair out to see the area. There are precious few natural areas available to those who aren't fully mobile. Wheelchair-accessible natural areas are few and far between.

It's easy to sit back and think, "I don't need it. Mud doesn't bother me, and if they're too lazy or too squeamish to walk a mile in the mud, they don't deserve the view," without considering that there are complex environmental considerations with any trailspace area, and there are people who would love to walk a mile in the mud, or any distance anywhere, that would be served well by what is really not that unreasonable an expenditure of money.

badger 12 years, 4 months ago

I don't doubt that the money might be better used if applied to senior services or education, but this wasn't in that budget, it was in another budget.

Bikes may not need to be on sidewalks, but in natural areas they need to stay on the &(%^$# trail. Those tires tear the heck out of the plants and pack down the soil, so a concrete trail for them is a lot better than having them grind the soil into powdered erosion fodder.

johnarthuranderson 12 years, 4 months ago

My wife and I are not young folks anymore and we tremendously enjoy the opportunity to utilize the city's existing concrete trail system. Having moved here recently we were sold on Lawrence with it's obvious attention to pedestrian mobility for active senior citizens such as ourselves. The expense of the new trail at the lake is nothing compared to the immeasurable number of hours that old folks like us, young parents with strollers, and those that require extra devices for mobility can spend in an area where we don't have to see the latest housing development being constructed. The expense of numerous people creating trails wherever they wish is far too expensive and a single, defined, well-constructed trail makes the most sense to me. I didn't know that a Kansas Trails Council exists, but you can be rest assured that they will have my support for the foresight that they obviously have in planning such a wonderful trail, I am sending in my membership today.

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