Archive for Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wetlands fans anticipate Baker discovery center opening

February 22, 2015


A feathered visitor to the Baker Wetlands had Roger Boyd puzzled last week.

The newcomer glided among trees and shrubs, ignoring a kestrel’s feigned attacks and cries. As he watched, Boyd, director of natural areas for Baker University and a lifelong birdwatcher, was much more thrilled about the unidentified raptor’s presence than was the upset kestrel.

“I don’t know what it is, and that disturbs me,” Boyd said. “It’s black. It’s not a red tail. I need to get my binoculars out and see.”

Right now, wetlands visits are pretty much limited to wildlife. Construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway has closed roads leading to access points to the site south of Lawrence. Directly behind Boyd as he watched the mystery bird, which he said might have been a rough-legged hawk, was another consequence of the SLT project that foreshadows the arrival of an unprecedented number of visitors: the 11,000-square-foot Baker University Wetlands Discovery Center now under construction.

Roger Boyd, director of natural areas and emeritus professor of biology at Baker University, toured the site of the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center on  Feb. 19, 2015. The 11,000-square-foot facility will house offices and exhibit space with large south-facing windows overlooking Baker Wetlands. A formal dedication is planned for September.

Roger Boyd, director of natural areas and emeritus professor of biology at Baker University, toured the site of the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center on Feb. 19, 2015. The 11,000-square-foot facility will house offices and exhibit space with large south-facing windows overlooking Baker Wetlands. A formal dedication is planned for September.

If all goes as planned, the discovery center will open to the public in June, although Boyd said access to the wetlands would still be limited as SLT work continues. With that in mind, Baker University is delaying the center’s ceremonial opening until September.

There is, nonetheless, anticipation about what the discovery center and expanded wetlands mean for the university and surrounding community, Baker President Lynne Murray said.

“The Baker Wetlands Discovery Center will be a wonderful facility and a tremendous educational asset to Lawrence, Douglas County and the surrounding areas,” she said. “We are looking forward to the day when children of all ages and families can visit the discovery center and learn more about the wetlands and natural ecosystem.

“Roger Boyd and Jon Boyd (wetlands resident refuge manager) have spent countless hours working closely with the construction crew at the wetlands site. The Boyds are extremely passionate about the wetlands and are committed to creating significant educational opportunities for the public to learn more about the environment.”

Classroom, lab

The center sits on a slight rise overlooking the wetlands to the east, south and southwest. Although not quite entirely enclosed, the center’s construction is far enough along to discern its final appearance. The center takes advantage of a three-wing, horseshoe-like design that will give visitors a panoramic view of the wetlands and the Wakarusa River beyond.

The center’s center wing will house a display area, restrooms, gift shop, small classroom, research lab and offices. A large classroom, which can be divided by curtains, will take up the entirety of the wing that angles to the northeast. The wing angling to the northwest is to be a garage/workshop.

It’s a plan Boyd said he first drew on an envelope before architect Fran Luck of Schneider & Associates of Lawrence developed the final design. Despite that origin, there was nothing quick and sketchy about the design.

“My wife and I visited 13 or 14 different visitor centers,” he said. “This is a lot similar to the one at Cheyenne Bottoms.”

Mitigation effort

The $1.5 million center is being built with funds the Kansas Department of Transportation provided as part of the highway department’s mitigation agreement for 58 acres of wetland needed to extend the SLT. The state also agreed to restore another 410 acres of wetlands, which will increase size of the Baker Wetlands to 927 acres.

“A lot of people feel negative about the highway going through the wetlands,” Boyd said. “I don’t think people know how much better the wetlands are going to be.”

The transportation department provided another $350,000 for site improvements around the discovery center that will include an asphalt parking lot and sidewalks.

Among the most frequent visitors will be Baker students. Baker biology professor Scott Kimball said the center will be integrated into the classes he teaches that require frequent wetlands field trips. The classrooms will give the classes a gathering place on days when they can’t get into or stay in the wetlands, he said.

The center’s lab is also a big plus, Kimball said.

“Some of our students process field samples,” he said. “Instead of coming all the way back to Baldwin to do that, they can process them right there. That is much more convenient.”

Murray, Boyd and Kimball see the center as a means to introduce students and families to Baker and the opportunities the wetlands offer for those considering careers in biology.

“We certainly hope so,” Kimball said. “We are going to do everything to show it off when we have new students or prospective students on campus. We will definitely bring up the wetlands and the center as something they might not be able to get at other schools.”


Mike Ford 3 years ago

Thanks for the destruction, white washing, and denial of indigenous history and culture on the lands you've desecrated. May be you can show Baker University how to finish the destruction of things with the Old Castle Museum building. Nothing like letting the building your college began from go to a total mess, Then again if all Baker University and it's employees care about is money than what's history anyway?

Donald Martin 3 years ago

Still grousing about the past eh! As a former Baker student, missing out on your comment about Old Castle Building. But to the real story here about the Discovery Center! My guess about the unidentified raptor, maybe a wayward Harris Hawk or more likely a melanisitc (dark) form of a Redtail. Several years ago a (almost) black hawk lived in the Kansas River Bottoms just north of Eudora. Observed it many times when I crossed the K.R. bridge.

Mike Ford 3 years ago

I grew up at 416 5th Street in Baldwin City at my grandparents right across the street from Old Castle Museum or the first site of Baker University from 1975 on visiting every summer and living there while attending Baker University from 1988-89. I used to look at the collections they had there. Baker University has let this building and it's collection go. They even spoke of this in the last Baker Orange. It's seems many Baker students suffer from a lack of informed history about the Indigenous peoples whose lands they inhabit. The land that all of this stuff is occurring on was used to re educate Native children to White farming in spite of the fact that indigenous peoples had been farming on this continent for thousands of years before pretentious and condescending immigrants showed up demanding Nahollo anumpa be spoken instead of their indigenous languages at Haskell Institute and made these Haskell students stay captive on boarding school campus for years at a time so that Native culture, language, religion, and a cultural connection to the land could not be passed down. The American Society sought to eliminate indigenousness then as this road project has desecrated the area now where many Haskell students were culturally stripped of who they were and the attempted elimination of indigenousness happened with the dismissal of Indigenous connection to the land by a Non-Indian College and a Non-Indian Judicial system in the last three years. I know of two now deceased elders, Oklahoma Choctaw and Kansas Munsee, who attended Haskell in the 1930's and 1940's who were kept away by force from their parents to keep their culture from being passed down. They both told of their boarding school experiences back then. The Munsee woman was taken from her parents at nine years of age and shipped around to the Genoa Indian School in Nebraska, the Wyandotte Indian School in Oklahoma, and Haskell, between 1929 and 1937. The kids who worked the fields KDOT, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and Baker University helped destroy had the same experiences if not worse than the two people I mentioned above.

Mike Ford 3 years ago

People who never learned the destructive acts of their culture at a school that charges $30k a year to attend use the term grousing in the past because their college of choice didn't value history as knowledge. Old Castle and the wetlands are proof of this. The building of this road in the wetlands is akin to the flooding of Seneca lands in violation of ratified treaties with the Kinzua Dam in Pennsylvania in the 1960's that led to the forced relocation of Seneca people from the Cornplanter land Grant in Pennsylvania to the Allegheny Reservation in New York State or the flooding of Celilo Falls in Oregon where numerous Oregon tribes fished salmon for millennia until a dam project destroyed the area. In essence historical ignorance is no defense and since Baker supported breaking it they in essence can now own the consequences of their destruction. Ask the professors "What's history anyway?"

Ron Holzwarth 3 years ago

"in violation of ratified treaties"

Please name a treaty between the European Invaders and the Native Americans that was honored by the European Invaders.

Andy Anderson 3 years ago

I liked the corn field better before it was made into a swamp.

Richard Heckler 3 years ago

Why did the powers that be choose a route that would require so many "bridges"?

Why did the powers that be choose such an an expensive area to buy out? With our tax dollars. There are some property owners that did very well in this buyout process that was of course managed by SLT supporters. Tons and tons of reckless spending associated with this endeavor.

Yes I have seen the buyout costs per property and the owners names. And the cost on maintenance will continue to shake we taxpayers down. Not only the roadway but the cost of the new building as well.

Unfortunately this route choice will do little if anything to address traffic congestion in Lawrence. We will be forced to deal with a larger number of 18 wheelers tailgating our behinds.

It will be years and years before the spending on this roadway levels out due to the "fast track process" and irresponsible planning. This area went from a beautiful,free and natural education center that also performed as flood control to a project that demands more and more tax dollars.

All of the above in addition to the concerns that Mike Ford relays. The Lawrence construction industry is constantly increasing our taxes and thinning our wallets.

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