Blue Rapids Several months ago, Colorado resident and Blue Rapids native George Callison received a phone call from Pat Osborne, a member of the Blue Rapids Historical Society.
She told Callison about the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s project to identify the Eight Wonders of Kansas Geography and asked him for suggestions in the Blue Rapids area.
It didn’t take long for Callison, a zoologist, paleontologist and geologist, to name his pick: the gigantic glaciers that formed the area’s landscape more than 1.5 billion years ago.
Today, the town of 1,022 about 40 miles north of Manhattan has embraced its Ice Age heritage and is raising money to erect a monument designed by Callison that will celebrate the glaciers that formed the rivers and rocky landscape of the area and ultimately contributed to the state’s economy.
A former resident has already earmarked $10,000 for the monument. An additional $40,000 is needed to complete the project.
Callison, 71, who lives in Grand Junction, Colo., said Blue Rapids and northeast Kansas were ravaged twice by gigantic glaciers in the past several thousands of years.
“As the last of the glaciers melted and retreated, it left a landscape denuded of vegetation but covered with boulders, gravel, sand and mud brought down 300 miles from the southern Minnesota area,” he explained in an email.
“These boulders are the oldest rocks in Kansas. ... The gravel and sand form the basis for many aggregate mining companies, and the mud made wonderfully rich soils for productive farming. Meltwater from the glaciers carved the basic patterns for the local rivers.”
Callison was a natural choice to design the Ice Age monument. He earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Kansas State University in 1962 and a master’s degree in zoology in 1965 and doctorate degree in zoology in 1969, both from Kansas University. He taught and conducted field research in vertebrate paleontology for 33 years and helped design nature parks and touring natural history exhibitions throughout the world for 12 years. His “Dinosaurs Alive and In Color” exhibition drew the most visitors for an exhibit at the Smithsonian.
The 15-foot-high monument — which will be erected in Fountain Park in Blue Rapids’ public square — will focus on three concrete pylons that emerge from a circular concrete platform with exposed aggregate of sand and gravel.
“It’s reminiscent of the front of glaciers,” Callison said, adding the monument also will include boulders that appear to be “eroding out of the concrete platform.”
Interpretative signs will be affixed to the pylons. Cool-blue and white up-lighting will dramatize the monument’s appearance at night, and a sound playback system with a narrative and sound effects of the Ice Age will be available to visitors.
Callison said the monument will require little maintenance and be durable enough to resist ordinary vandalism and skateboarders.
“We hope to begin (construction) in July or August,” he said, adding a dedication ceremony is planned once the monument is completed.
Mike Bailey, of Bailey Construction, is the contractor for the project, he said. Blue Rapids resident Phillip Osborne will oversee the project. The boulders — about 4 to 5 feet in diameter and weighing 160 pounds per cubic foot — will come from a pasture owned by Joe Warders.
Callison said he hopes the monument will instill more pride in the community and “start a cascade of events that would be positive” for Blue Rapids.
Pat Osborne said she hopes the monument, coupled with the Blue Rapids Museum, will attract more visitors to the small town. The museum, which is undergoing a $20,000 remodeling project, displays memorabilia unique to the area’s heritage.
“I think it will help us keep at the forefront of the tourism business,” she said.