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.