Volunteers putting up observation tower at Baker Wetlands
A team of volunteers working at the Baker Wetlands on Saturday was rewarded with a nice view.
Spreading out to their east and south were grasses tinted with fall colors mixed with brush and trees still displaying the lush green of summer. That vegetation framed the pools that attract native and migrating birds and other wildlife to the wetlands.
The volunteers were there to work on a project that they hope will improve that view.
Jon Boyd, Baker Wetlands director, said the Westar Energy Green Team was constructing an observational structure at a site east of the Discovery Center, 1365 North 1250 Road. When finished, the structure will have two stories. The lower deck would be used for small outdoor classes, but both levels would be assets for birdwatchers and those who just want to take in the view, he said.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Boyd said. “It’s so flat, I’ll bet people will be able to see most of the wetlands from the tower. I imagine almost all visitors will walk out to it. The tower is going to be a hit with the kids.”
As Boyd spoke, 13 Green Team volunteers were busy installing the deck on the lower level. Boyd said it looked as though the floor of the deck would be finished by the end of the day, but it would require a few more weekends before the tower was completed.
The poles, beams and planking used for the project were all recycled lumber from old Westar transmission lines, said Westar Green Team coordinator Ben Postlethwait, who is responsible for designing the structure and overseeing its construction.
Many of the volunteers were Westar employees, retirees or their families members, but other community members were welcome to join the team, too, Postlethwait said. The team, which travels around the state, works on about 60 to 80 projects per year, contributing about 3,500 hours of work in total, he said.
Postlethwait said the volunteers expected the project to take about 200 hours of work.
Boyd said he and the volunteers weren’t sure yet what kind of seating would be on the lower deck. Picnic tables didn’t seem appropriate, but it would at least have benches around its outside edge, he said.
The Baker Wetlands have applied for a grant that would provide environmental and historical signage to be posted on the platform and tower, Boyd said.