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Decorations for the birds
Images by local photographers decorate Wetlands Center van
new deh wetlands center van wrap pic 1 web
Shown is the recently redecorated Kansas Wetlands Education Center van featuring wildlife images by area photographers. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

If you go looking for the Kansas Wetlands Education Center’s van amongst the cattails of Cheyenne Bottoms, you might miss it. 

Just recently adorned with colorful photos of birds that call the wetlands home, the large, white Ford may blend into the background. The pictures were provided courtesy of area photographers.

“I’m very impressed with it,” said Curtis Wolf, center director. 

“It had just been a white van,” he said. The vehicle has been in service since 2010, used to give tours of the Bottoms and haul educators to programs.

“We got the idea to decorate it more and use it as an advertising tool,” he said, adding staff had seen the concept used by Fort Hays State University, the center’s parent organization. They had talked about it for about a year and started the project in late 2017.

Wolf and company worked with the FHSU University Relations Department on the project. It involves a “wrap” of the van in large, vinyl photographic images.

However, “getting images to use is not the easiest thing to do,” he said. Most photographers expect compensation for their work.

Enter area veteran wildlife photographers Dr. Dan Witt of Hoisington and Jim Griggs of McPherson. “The local photographers were gracious enough to donate their services,” Wolf said.

So, it is their images that can be seen on this rolling billboard.

“Curtis Wolf is a thoughtful and forward-looking administrator at KWEC,” Witt said, adding he is active versus reactive at every level. So, he jumped at the chance to be a part of the project.

“When he queried me about images for the van, I visualized a much smaller project,” he said, but he is pleased with the result. Wolf sent Witt drawings of his ideas and Witt sent him every image that seemed to fit the plan.

“I am honored that he also used images from Jim Griggs, who I admire a lot,” Witt said. “Curtis has used local guys for his project, which adds flavor.” 

The van is beautiful, the photographer said. “It will be a landmark vehicle with a profile. Jim and I are honored to be part of the process.”

Wolf noted the van is still used for tours of Cheyenne Bottoms and are a good way to see the world-renowned refuge. If guests doesn’t see any birds in the wild, they can just look at their ride.

For more information, visit the center at 592 NE K-156 or call 877-243-9268.