Boardwalk is rebuilt
This spring the annual burn at the Baker University Wetlands did more burning than planned.
The controlled burn, which was designed to destroy woody vegetation and allow native grasses to expand, destroyed 160 feet of the boardwalk that extends into the natural reserve. As nature repairs itself from the fire, the boardwalk is undergoing repairs as well.
On April 18, Roger Boyd, Ph.D., chairman of biology and director of natural resources at Baker University, and several of his students were at the wetlands with their water packs and fire torches monitoring the burn. They left the boardwalk area to start another section and when Boyd turned around he could not believe his eyes.
"I turned around and saw smoke from the boardwalk area," said Boyd. "We couldn't get over there right away. We couldn't leave the fire we were working on. We just had to sit, watch and worry."
When Boyd made it to the boardwalk there was not much he could do to stop the blaze.
"The heat was so intense that it vaporized the water before it reached the flames," recalled Boyd. "I was in a state of shock. I couldn't believe that I had let it happen."
The intense heat was in part from the plastic lumber used for the boardwalk. The lumber, which is made from recycled milk jugs, is supposed to be fire resistant, but the wooden timbers used for the base of the walk were so hot that the plastic began to melt.
A strong wind blowing from the south aided Boyd in his effort to contain the blaze.
"The wind was strong enough to blow the smoke and fire north," said Boyd. "I kicked the timbers loose from the south side and was able to stop the fire and save 700 feet of the walk."
The night of the fire Boyd attended a Jayhawk Audubon Society meeting and they immediately pledged $1,000 for the rebuilding of the destroyed section.
"I was very grateful for the way they handled it," said Boyd. "I thought they would think I was an idiot. Instead they were very supportive and gracious."
In addition to the money from Jayhawk Audubon, approximately $3,000 in private donations were received.
"Since the timbers are donated by Western Resources Electric Company, the costs of rebuilding were covered by the donations," said Boyd.
With the generosity of donors and the Audubon Society, plans to rebuild the boardwalk were quickly under way.
Two weeks ago 18 timbers weighing 400 pounds each were transported to the wetlands. Boyd then anchored the timbers and the remainder of the work was done by volunteers from Baldwin Scout Troop 65 and residents of Baldwin and Lawrence.
With the project completed, Boyd said he plans on being more cautious in the future when it comes to burning,
"We were too rushed with other burns that day," he said. "We will always do the boardwalk area by itself from now on."