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Archive for Friday, August 24, 2007

Sculpture trail plan on hold

Kurt Nesbitt and his dog, Pocha, rest Thursday by the Kansas River near Burcham Park. Plans for a sculpture park near where Nesbitt was sitting have been put on hold after some people expressed concerns that it would damage wildlife habitat. Nesbitt, who is an artist and who has walked the river trail since he was 8, said he would support such a sculpture park.

Kurt Nesbitt and his dog, Pocha, rest Thursday by the Kansas River near Burcham Park. Plans for a sculpture park near where Nesbitt was sitting have been put on hold after some people expressed concerns that it would damage wildlife habitat. Nesbitt, who is an artist and who has walked the river trail since he was 8, said he would support such a sculpture park.

August 24, 2007

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Art walk plans on hold

Plans to display unique artwork in a new park along the Kansas River are now on hold after some residents raised concerns about potential impacts to the environment. Enlarge video

Call it a bump in the road or, more accurately, the trail.

Plans for a new Burcham Park trail that would be lined with unique sculptures are on hold after some residents were concerned the project would too dramatically disrupt the natural area along the Kansas River.

"We're just people who believe nature should be left alone," said Alison Roepe, a Lawrence resident who lives near the wooded area of Burcham Park, Second and Indiana streets. "I don't think people are looking for a place where they can go see sculptures in the middle of nature. They want a place where they can still go out and experience nature."

Trail organizer Marie Thompson, a Leavenworth-based artist, confirmed the project has been put on hold, but she said it may not be dead. She said new plans by Kansas University to build a boathouse in Burcham Park for the university's rowing program may serve as an opportunity to bring the trail project back to life.

"We think we can maybe start over and run into less controversy," Thompson said.

Earlier this year, Thompson and leaders with the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department agreed to work together to develop the Kansas River Expression of Soul Project. Plans called for a new dirt trail to run through a wooded area between Burcham and Constant parks. The trail would lead visitors to several pieces of "environmental art," which are sculptures made from logs, branches, grass and other materials native to the site.

Thompson, who already had lined up free labor through an environmental program run by Westar Energy, had hoped to begin work by this fall. But now, Thompson said, she agreed with the city to put the project on hold after hearing concerns that the trail would damage the park's environment.

"Lawrence has very few places that are untouched," Roepe said. "So many of the natural stands of trees are being cut down because they're being developed."

John Hachmeister, an associate professor of sculpture at KU who has been working with Thompson, said he thought there had been some miscommunication about the project. He said it was designed to be very sensitive to the environment and wouldn't involve large-scale cutting of trees.

Hachmeister said he believed the trail had a chance to significantly improve the environment by drawing more people to the Kansas River.

"Right now, people have turned their back on the river, and they are just using it as a sewer," Hachmeister said. "Once they rediscover the river, they will understand what a wonderful resource they have in their own backyard."

Mark Hecker, superintendent of parks for the city, said parks and recreation leaders were still interested in the trail idea.

"We're just sitting back and letting the process work," Hecker said. "We want to see if she can work with some of the people who are opposed to it."

Hecker, though, agreed that plans for a new boathouse in the park could be an opportunity to explore the trail project again. City commissioners earlier this month agreed to open negotiations with KU that would allow a $6 million boathouse to be built in the park.

"I see a lot of potential for a riverwalk from downtown to Burcham Park," Hecker said. "The boathouse could be one anchor, and City Hall could be the anchor on the other end."

Roepe said she was looking to learn more about boathouse plans and vowed to keep a close eye on the trail project.

"I've talked to several people who have said if the trail project heats back up, they will heat back up to stop it," Roepe said.

Comments

Marion Lynn 6 years, 7 months ago

"Artists" wishing to improve upon Nature.

Good luck!

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northtown 6 years, 7 months ago

ART??? In Lawrence,on the river,bring on some high water!!! Just leave this area alone,build the boathouse ,my bring in sone money,sales tax,maybe they can repair streets.Stop the new Library.Why spaend money on a building that only a few citizens of town use??All,or most of the citizens use the streets....Also please city,recertife the levy,don't wait until the last year??????

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matahari 6 years, 7 months ago

ohh, pooh, pooh, the rich (and idle) will have to find something else to do with our tax money~ boo hoo!

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canyon_wren 6 years, 7 months ago

Good news! Maybe they will ultimately drop the idea. It's not just the cutting of trees that will destroy the "natural atmosphere--just seeing some goofy idea of art stuck in among the native plants, etc. spoils it for me. I agree that under the transmission lines might be a good spot!

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loudmouthrealist 6 years, 7 months ago

From the article: "Thompson, who already had lined up free labor through an environmental program run by Westar Energy, had hoped to begin work by this fall."

Since Westar is so invested in this project, why do they not allow this sculpture trail to be places under the electrical transmission lines that run though that area (between the railroad tracks and Burcham park). Right now that area is grass (basically worthless wildlife habitat). That area could certainly be aesthetically and environmentally improved by this project.

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loudmouthrealist 6 years, 7 months ago

Merrill

The boat house will definitely not be small. The way I understand it, it will be built just South of the existing floating dock KU already has. The good thing is that (where the boat house will be built) most of the trees between the river and that area have already been cut down (there is grass in that area now).There certainly will be some trees lost and it will also encroach on some natural habitat used by the native wildlife, but I do not believe that anything will be able to be done about that. KU has to much money and to much clout with the city for that project to be stopped. One can just hope that KU will be as environmentally sensitive as possible.

The quote in the article by Marie Thompson: "Trail organizer Marie Thompson, a Leavenworth-based artist, confirmed the project has been put on hold, but she said it may not be dead. She said new plans by Kansas University to build a boathouse in Burcham Park for the university's rowing program may serve as an opportunity to bring the trail project back to life."

Basically she is saying that since KU will degrade the environment with the boat house her project degrading the environment even further wont matter.

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b3 6 years, 7 months ago

These 'sculptures' would only increase the amount of trash on the trails.

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countrygirl 6 years, 7 months ago

I have to agree with Defender. There are a lot of areas that need attention ahead of art being placed in an area that will invite vandalism.

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Defender 6 years, 7 months ago

How about forget the park and all other unnecessary junk until the city can afford it? Our streets are falling apart and traffic is terrible. Let's do something about the important issues first.

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PROAMERICA 6 years, 7 months ago

This crap is not art............anybody ever look at the junk manufactured by these do-nothing "artist". Now the city is going to waste my money on some place to set this manure. Although I guess i could put together a piece of art for the sculpture trail. I'll call it "where Lawrence leaders set and decide our future. I'll put an old septic tank (still full) above ground with a flush type toilet on the top hole for use by the visitors to this site. I'll also put a plaque on it stating "This is pure art".

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Richard Heckler 6 years, 7 months ago

Why not consider creating a natural " sculpture park" right off of 6th street for more visibility in the already maintained space? Also I speculate vandalism will ruin many of these art works considering they will be off the beaten path.

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Richard Heckler 6 years, 7 months ago

A six million dollar boathouse will not be small...hmmmmmm. Where exactly will this small monster be located. Will it block views of the 4th of July celebration?

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loudmouthrealist 6 years, 7 months ago

One would certainly agree that the river needs some major help. But one of the major problem with the Kansas River Expression of Soul Project (KREOS project) is that there was never a detailed plan, in writing, brought forward on how big the project would be, how many and how wide trails would be how the area would be maintained (with pesticides and herbicides) and how much "undergrowth" would be cut out of the area. No one opposed was really concerned with large-scale cutting of trees. It is the "small" stuff that counts.

quote: "John Hachmeister, an associate professor of sculpture at KU who has been working with Thompson, said he thought there had been some miscommunication about the project. He said it was designed to be very sensitive to the environment and wouldn't involve large-scale cutting of trees."

One of the major concerns of this project is how the trails will be maintained. Right now that area is a very important staging and resting area for a tremendous amount of migratory birds traveling though the area in the spring and in the fall. It is also heavily used by migratory birds that stay in this area for habitat and rearing of offspring. One avid Lawrence birdwatcher (Bob Antonio, a professor at KU) has documented at least 210 different species of birds in Burcham Park since 1984.

The major problem with this project is going to be the extent of the undergrowth trimming ( the small trees and brush low to the ground) and the extent of the eradication of the poison ivy (the berries are a major food source) and other native plants that would occur.

Many will argue that the area is blighted by trash and camp sites left by teenagers partying and by the homeless. That certainly is the case, but the wildlife can much better handle that type of disturbance. Much more so then the planed " urbanization" and destruction of this natural area.

There are much better places to put this art project, rather than to destroy on of the few natural areas left in the city.

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lounger 6 years, 7 months ago

I completely agree with halting this project. Cheers to those who thought it out. As far as Martin d 15's comment that kansas is the most polluted river in the midwest-well duh! Why martin do you think its that way? Because people like you dont care and have given up. Well I will keep on fighting for a clean river no matter what--and im not alone!

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Martin_D_15 6 years, 7 months ago

for crying out loud, it's the Kansas River! the most polluted river in the midwest! the Kansas River is the most regulated stream in the State of Kansas, there is nothing "natural" about it! How about Bowersock Dam that creates the backwater where the park is located? that sure ain't "natural."

Just build the freakin park and the sculptures! then my dog has something new to wet!

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