If you followed the sounds of drilling and pounding hammers near the north entrance to the Baker Wetlands on Monday, you’d quickly come upon the source of the noise. Jon Boyd, his father, Roger, and several others were dismantling one of the complex’s two boardwalks, which is being removed to make way for construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway.
For Jon Boyd, refuge manager of the Baker Wetlands, the monthlong process of breaking down the 850-foot walkway, board by board, is almost bittersweet.
That’s because Boyd planned and built most of the boardwalk to earn the rank of Eagle Scout at the unusually young age of 13.
“I was proud of it when I built it,” Boyd said. “It’s sentimental.”
It was the summer after he graduated eighth grade when Boyd, a then-member of Troop 65 out of Baldwin City, devoted three weeks to create the boardwalk.
He chose the project to fulfill his leadership requirement because his father was, and still is, director of the Baker Wetlands. The father and son worked together to establish a plan. Then Jon took over, directing volunteers who set the concrete piers and arranged the timber foundation.
For 21 years, the walkway, surrounded by trees and marshes, allowed visitors to more fully experience the wetlands, which consists of 573 acres of meadow, marshland, ponds and native grass located just south of Lawrence.
“We have a lot of people come out here,” Boyd said. “It gives people a chance to walk around and see nature.”
Soon after his project was completed, Boyd received his Eagle Scout designation. At the time, he assumed his creation would last.
‘The last hurdle’
Instead of bemoaning the fate of a past accomplishment, Boyd is forward-focused. He knows the deconstruction of the boardwalk is the final step toward a new era.
“It’s been here since ’92, so at that time the roadway project wasn’t that prominent,” Boyd explained. “After dealing with it for the last five or 10 years and seeing all the benefits that the trafficway would provide for Baker and the community, it’s not that sad.”
In the mitigation agreement between the Kansas Department of Transportation and Baker University that was released last year, the state promised 480 acres in exchange for 56 acres that will be lost to the trafficway.
Roger Boyd said 310 of the acres would be restored to wetlands. The rest of the area is upland prairie or riparian habitats.
The mitigation also includes the stipulation that the state cover the costs of building a new visitor center and provides funds to hire an education coordinator who will arrange field trips to the wetlands complex.
In addition, the state will set up an endowment to cover any maintenance, operations and administration costs that the wetlands may encounter.
“Hopefully that should be able to provide us with funds to go into the future and not ever have to fundraise or ask for grants,” Boyd said.
According to KDOT, construction on the final leg of the trafficway is set to begin in October. The other boardwalk, which is located near the restoration site at 1365 N. 1250 Road and was built in 2009, will remain available for use.
After they finish dismantling the boardwalk near the north gate later this week, Jon and Roger Boyd will be ready.
“We’ll come back and tear out the timbers, but beyond that, we’ve gotten most everything prepared for the roadway project to start,” Boyd said. “This is the last hurdle.”