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News and notes from around town:
• A Douglas County horse farm soon may become home to a therapeutic ranch for adults and children with autism.
The Kansas City-area based Mid-America Association for Autistic Training and Research has filed plans with the Planning Department to operate a therapeutic ranch on 31 acres just south of Lawrence.
The association is seeking to locate on a portion of the Coal Creek Farms property at 1674 N. 1000 Road. Rick Andrews of Coal Creek Farms told me the group is working in conjunction with Coal Creek to develop the property and have it rezoned from agriculture to rural tourism.
According to the filed plans, the association plans to use existing indoor riding arena and stables. It also proposes building about four guest cabins, but the plans indicate the property likely will not host large groups of people at once because people with autism often do better in smaller groups.
The plans also call for construction of a small activity center and “country store” that would sell items made or grown by the farm’s autistic guests.
But the main purpose of the property, it appears from the plans, is to give both autistic adults, children and their caregivers a chance to get out in a rural setting. Much of the property would continue to be devoted to riding pastures, vegetable gardens or picnic areas. The property also would be able to accommodate a few art, music and other types of classes for guests.
An attempt to reach a representative with the Mid-America Association for Autistic Training and Research was not successful. The zoning request will need to win approval from the Douglas County Commission before the project can move forward.
• Perhaps some of you feel like you need a place for a bit of respite after dealing with what sounds like some nasty problems on Knology’s e-mail system over the last couple of days.
Several people have passed along complaints that their Knology e-mail accounts largely have been non-working for more than 24 hours, and they weren’t getting many answers about what the problems were.
Well, I did get in touch with a spokeswoman with WOW — the parent company of Knology — out in the Denver area.
As of Thursday evening, WOW spokeswoman Erica Stull said she believed most of the issues with the e-mail system had been corrected. She said the problems arose when WOW began to switch the e-mail from a Knology platform over to a new platform. She said her understanding was that the e-mail service, while not completely down, was unreliable for about a 24-hour period.
“We have had engineers and personnel working on it around the clock,” Stull said.
My understanding is that the system would allow people with Knology e-mail accounts to receive e-mail but not send e-mail, or perhaps vice versa or a little bit of both at times.
For whatever it is worth, I have talked to some folks in the cable/Internet industry who are not affiliated with WOW but said they do expect WOW to make significant improvements in service to the Lawrence area. They generally said WOW has a good reputation in the industry. They didn’t go so far to say that about Knology. Indeed, WOW does seem to consistently do well both in Consumer Report and J.D. Power rankings for both cable, phone and Internet service.
I have also heard that there have been some management changes on the local level with Knology — which I assume will be renamed WOW, at some point — so we’ll see what other changes are on the horizon.
• Hey, look at it this way. All that time you didn’t spend sending e-mail messages, you could have spent reconnecting with Mother Earth. And it appears Lawrence is one of the better places in the country to do that, according to a new ranking from the national magazine Mother Earth News.
The publication — which is actually based in Topeka — has named Lawrence one of its eight “Great Places You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of.” (If you are reading this column and have never heard of Lawrence, we’re going to have to talk about getting you off your bar stool a little more often.)
The magazine notes that Lawrence has a real appreciation for sustainable and healthy living, even going so far to compare our enthusiasm for Jayhawk basketball to our enthusiasm for local food and farmers markets. (Indeed, I have been known to climb a light pole on Massachusetts Street when homegrown tomatoes start showing up in the garden.)
The magazine also touts Lawrence in several other ways, including:
— A rich history as the “epicenter of pre-Civil War abolitionism.”
— Cultural opportunities at Haskell Indian Nations University and KU.
— The Merc’s market and deli section of locally produced foods.
— And the city’s “generations long history” of producing hydroelectric power via the Bowersock Dam.
That last one was particularly interesting to me. I’m predicting Lawrence will try to make a major effort to publicize itself as a unique green community as the new Bowersock hydroelectric power plant opens on the north bank of the Kansas River. And this is unofficial — because I haven’t gotten word yet from Bowersock leaders — but I think that project is significantly ahead of schedule. News of it starting to produce electricity could come sooner rather than later.
Anyway, you can read all about Lawrence in the October-November issue of Mother Earth News. The other cities on the list of “Great Places You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of” include: Charleston, S.C.; Denton, Texas; Dover, N.H.; Golden, Colo.; Hilo, Hawaii; Port Townsend, Wash.; and Red Lodge, Mont. (I hadn’t heard of Port Townsend or Red Lodge, but I’m not going to spend any less time on a bar stool.)
• While we’re talking about Bowersock, here’s a chance to control a rumor before it gets started. Soon (I don’t think it already has happened) a small grove of about dozen trees or so immediately east of the new Bowersock plant will be cut down.
But no, the tree cutting doesn’t have anything to do with the new power plant. Instead, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently inspected the city’s Kansas River levee. The Corps said the trees and their invasive roots needed to be removed to prevent damage to the levee.
The tree cutting also won’t extend further to the east, where there are acres of trees that have grown in between the river and the levee.
Matt Bond, the city engineer who oversees levee maintenance, told me most of the trees that will be cut are less than 12 inches in diameter. He said the Corps’ report also recommended removing a “handful” of scattered trees that are on the north side of the levee. But Bond said he wants to further review that finding, and may challenge it. The trees on the north side of the levee, although, they technically are in an easement, likely provide some benefit to the houses that back up to the levee. Bond said he would want to be convinced that the trees are causing a true threat to the levee before ordering them to be cut down.