Musings from the Hill, May 21, 2015
A great change in our area due to the recent death of Margaret Counts is upon us. What effect will her death have upon the environs of Douglas County State Lake? The area in question has vital links to state land. For years, it has been a buffer zone between the two areas. Could an equitable agreement be achieved between the state of Kansas and those of the new owners to provide a memorial in honor of the pioneer who planted the first sugar maple trees, creating the most beautiful road in the entire state of Kansas — formerly known as “Old Dell Road” or later “Counts Road” to honor Mr. Counts, who planted them. For many years they have provided beauty and pleasure to hundreds of people. For many, a highlight of fall is a drive down Counts Road.
Easily accessed open areas, woodlands and lakes adjacent to our fair city are a unique blessing. Do you not wonder at the foresight of our citizens who have generously given land, time and money to preserve this beautiful area? Not to forget the help from state agencies and the participation of Baker University with its lovely well-maintained campus gives ambience and pleasure.
When the Earles family learned that land next to theirs had been sold to a developer they marshaled their forces and created a property easement. People are welcome to visit the property. Just call them first. This lovely 135-acre addition to our Baldwin area is known locally as the Old Goat Ranch. It contains one of the best remaining examples of the eastern deciduous oak-hickory forest in the state. The Baldwin woods landscape was designated as a national Natural Landmark in 1980. Baldwin Woods, approximately two miles north of Baldwin City, is a 2,000-acre tract of land. Bill Busby, a scientist of Kansas Biological Survey said, “It is a rare spot in the landscape that’s never been altered.” Several years ago we had to remove a 200-year-old oak tree. I thumbed a ride and went 60 feet up in a tree bucket. As far as my eyes could see I was surrounded by woodland, only about 60 miles from Kansas City! Truly we are blessed to be encompassed by these forested acres. Not only do they cool the air on hot summer days they also clear the air of pollutants.
Four reserves owned by KU and Baker are nearby. Roger Boyd and his son manage the extensive Baker Wetlands. Don’t miss his yearly tours of this unique area. Water is rapidly becoming a precious commodity. Fortunately our citizens rose up in alarm when Old City Lake was proposed to be sold into private hands. Mary Swan and I often walked the trail around the lake. This was created many years ago by Katherine Kelly and was maintained by the Boy Scouts. The last time we visited we were mired in mud and there was no longer access to the bridge, which I was told, was built by a scout to honor his grandmother. Years have passed and I can no longer visit my favorite nature haunts. My daughter, Tricia, recently took me for a brief visit to Wells Overlook. Years ago, we called it Quantrill’s Overlook. Formerly, unless one climbed the tower, there was nothing to be seen as “pasture cedars” had completely destroyed the view. Judicious pruning and a new tower now present wonderful views of rolling Kansas hills, which deny the common conception of flat Kansas. Thank you to all who provide places to reconnect with nature and restore health and beauty for all to enjoy.