My friend Mike Miller (Editor of the KDWP&T magazine) invited me and Sandra to a meeting last Monday night at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. That meeting was hosted by Governor Sam Brownback. The focus of the event was to get ideas for better utilizing and promoting the Cheyenne Bottoms as the major resting place for the shore birds, waterfowl and Whooping Cranes as related to tourism, birding, hunting and photography. It was not political in any way that I could discern. Mr. Boeckman discussed the roads into and out of the Bottoms that we all agree need some attention. There was discussion of a bike/hike trail or path. Mr. Brownback spent the night at the cabin by KWEC and toured the Bottoms on Tuesday with Mike Radar who is the avian expert for the dept. Michael Pierce from the Wichita Eagle was there-- he walks the walk and talks the talk about outdoor issues with such genuine enthusiasm and skill-- and he is always THERE when news happens. I genuinely respect his dedication and low key presence across this state. Curtis Wolf handed the Governor a snake which he handled carefully. Mr. Jennison who heads the KDWPT and Karl Grover presented good ideas, and it was nice to see Cris Collier who has promoted the Scenic Byway tirelessly continue her enthusiastic effort. The Nature Conservancy was recognized and appreciated for their presence. There were other important people there, but there was no political agenda or speeches. It was SO GOOD to see our Bottoms unite so many different groups with so many assets and ideas putting their best thoughts and recommendations together. I think I was the only one there without a title of some sort and I am really grateful to Mike for the invite.
I have no idea what the outcome of the meeting will be. I think we put to rest the idea of paving the Bottoms roads-- too toxic for the water, many birds get gravel, and a host of other environmental, physical and financial restrictions. I think the bike trail will be explored. The overlook on Highway 4 toward Claflin will get used. The By-way has been successful and continues to improve and expand.
The most obvious “shortcoming” is we local people who have not seen the Bottoms or KWEC. I am stunned almost daily by the absence of traffic excluding duck season and the Whooping Crane and shorebird migration. KWEC hosts so many school events and youth-related events that we will certainly catch up by the time these 4th graders get married and put their kids on the bus to the Bottoms for a field day.
It was a delightful evening filled with promise and vision. My take-away was the gift of a book recommendation from Mike Miller and Michael Pierce which I have ordered and will pass on to you-- “Hunting and Trading on the Great Plains 1859-1875” by J.R. Mead. They assure me that I will see Kansas in a different way when I travel the state after reading that book. Their reverence for it sold me in a flash!
Water is a bit low, shore birds, gulls, waterfowl, Sandhill Cranes-- are all here. Whoopers are coming!!
Dan Witt is a retired physician and avid outdoorsmen. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.