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Wetlands - Or Not?
I do not claim to be an expert regarding wetlands; in particular the Haskell-Baker wetlands. However, I do claim the qualification of being able to make observations. With that said, should someone point out a factual error (or an additional noteworthy fact), this blog will be updated accordingly. Should you have a different opinion or political belief regarding the wetlands - feel free to express yourself in the comments section.
The Haskell-Baker wetlands end up the center of many
controversies. The wetlands have delayed the
South Lawrence Trafficway and given rise to the great Beaver Protests of 2010. Defenders of the wetlands proclaim that they are restoring the land. With the recent Beaver Protests it might be possible that the land is being restored to its rightful owners: the beavers. Regardless of the reason, the protectors of the wetlands believe that the restoration of an area - an area that was not wetland as far back as 1937 - should take precedence over improving the day to day activities of man.
The Haskell-Baker Wetlands consist of 640 acres; of which, 573 are controlled by Baker University, 27 by Haskell University, 20 by Kansas University, and the final 20 by Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. This acreage is primarily located between Haskel Avenue and Louisiana Streets with 31st Street for a north border and the Wakarusa River for its southern border. There are also mitigation areas just west of Louisiana Street.
The following aerial photographs show the current wetlands, and in reverse order, a time prior to the building of the artificial berm that is 31st Street. These aerials span a time period of over 70 years, with the last aerial photograph from 1937.
This is the current Google satellite photograph of the wetlands.
The 1976 aerial photograph is the oldest one showing 31st street; the street markers were left off of this view to show the construction of 31st street. All of the older aerials predate the construction of 31st street.
The plans for 31st street were under way by 1966; the aerial has a hand-drawn line marking the future location of the street. However, there is no evidence of natural wetlands. Yet, in 1969, the wetlands were declared a National Natural Landmark.
The wetlands appear to have a well defined farm field grid in the 1954 photographs. There may be evidence of an irrigation system in the southwest field.
The aerial photographs taken in 1941 have much of the Haskell-Baker wetlands labeled as "pasture".
The final aerial is from 1937. The "wetlands" do not appear to exist; rather, there are what appears to be well defined farm fields.
The restoration of an area that, at best, over 70 years ago was a combination of pasture, farm land, and a small swamp, should not take precedence over the improvement of services provided to citizens. Should the apologists of the wetlands fail to work with officials in completing the South Lawrence Trafficway, then it may be time to condemn the mosquito pit, apply eminent domain, and proceed with construction of the highway.
UPDATE - June 16, 2010Users have made mention, and provided this picture, of the "old dump" located in the wetlands. It makes for an interesting side bar. It appears that the dump was for the use of Haskell University. The aerial from 1937 shows the dump site was already quite large indicating years of use. Those students attending Haskell University prior to the man-made wetlands must have had a different view of the historical value of the land.
UPDATE - June 18, 2010
An online user, DougCounty, has provided the following facts, which are included here as balance and were taken from the web page, "History of the Baker Wetlands." DougCounty's full comment can be found here.
- 1922: drainage tiles began to be installed as part of the Haskell Agriculture program. In the following decade or so, the wetlands were drained and plowed up for agricultural use: planting pastures and some cropland.
- 1934: Haskell got out of the agriculture business and leased the land to area farmers to continue the farming
- 1968: Baker acquires the acreage, Ivan Boyd works with E Raymond Hall of KU to begin preserving remaining native prairie tracts.
- 1982: Ivan Boyd dies and his son, Roger begins to manage the land and begins to explore with US Parks and Wildlife the possibility of larger scale restoration efforts. The efforts result in removing the drainage tiles, which allows large scale restoration efforts to proceed, creating the wetlands we know today.
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*All images used under Copyright Law US Code Title 17, Section 107