Facelift for Baker Wetlands
Throughout the upcoming year, many improvement projects are planned for the Baker Wetlands, located just south of Lawrence along Douglas County Road 1055.
During April last spring, a fire burned 160 feet of the boardwalk across part of the Wetlands. According to Roger Boyd, professor of biology and director of the Wetlands, the plan is to have the boardwalk back in working order by the end of the summer.
Fifteen volunteers have already started work on the boardwalk. Nine are from Lawrence, four are Boy Scouts and two are Boy Scout leaders from Baldwin City. Aug. 10 was the first day of reconstruction despite the heat and the volunteers got a great deal accomplished.
"I thought we did more than I had anticipated," Boyd said. "It was much hotter than we were hoping though."
Part of the lumber material to rebuild the boardwalk was provided by Western Resources and the plastic lumber was ordered from Iowa. The project also received about $4,000 total in donations. About 15 to 20 individuals donated money, and the Jayhawk Audubon Society donated $1,000.
Another alteration will be the relocation of the Baldwin City waterpipe, located 80 feet from county road 1055. The move will take it to the outer edge of the Wetlands. According to Boyd, the engineers are still working on the final plans, and expect a bid by early November and the final contract on the pipe by mid-December.
Construction is planned for the early part of next year. They will start with the lowest portion of the pipe at the north end. The plan is to finish that portion before the spring rains put the area under water.
The line will be larger than the current two lines that serve the Baldwin community and Rural Water District No. 4. The old lines will remain abandoned where they are, so no harm will be done to the Wetlands to dig them up.
"The water line is kind of a minor aspect of the whole project," Boyd said.
This construction is a part of the widening that will create a shoulder to create a safer road. Visually, the road will have a major change. Workers will have to remove some trees along the road and move dirt from the Wetlands to build up the shoulder.
Boyd said this has some benefits for the Wetlands, including more area for water to be retained when the dirt is moved and the removal of some trees. He also said within six to eight months after the completion of the construction the vegetation will grow back to its natural state minus a few trees.
Another aspect of the Wetlands is the number of bird species that can be observed during the fall.
"Right now we have a fantastic show of great egrets and snowy egrets and little blue herons, which are mostly on the east side," Boyd said.
Also throughout the fall, there are always a large number of ducks moving through. Boyd said he has already observed shovelers, mallards and even a snipe. He said that the best time to see these is usually early in the morning or later in the evening.