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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

Martin_D_15 6 years, 12 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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lounger 6 years, 12 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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Richard Heckler 6 years, 12 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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Richard Heckler 6 years, 12 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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countrygirl 6 years, 12 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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canyon_wren 6 years, 12 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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matahari 6 years, 12 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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