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Much has happened at the KWEC
Report on wildlife center gives glimpses of a busy year
new_deh_city council exhibit ribbon cutting.jpg
The ribbon cutting of a new exhibit at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center was one of the highlights at the facility this past year. The City Council Monday night heard a report on this and other activities at the center. - photo by Tribune file photo

Since it opened 10 years ago, the Kansas Wetlands Education Center has long valued its relationship with the City of Great Bend, KWEC Executive Director Curtis Wolf told the City Council Monday night. And, he looks forward to continued ties.

“I want to thank you for your continued support and partnership,” he said. To that end, he offered highlights of the 2018 annual report for the facility, located south of K-156 just across the highway from Cheyenne Bottoms and operated by Fort Hays State University.

“The city is one of many partners who has made this facility possible,” he said. Great Bend and its Convention and Visitors Bureau have been key to the center’s success, and between the two, have provided over $11,000 in sponsorships and marketing assistance.

Looking back

The center recorded 20,295 total contacts in 2018, he said. Total contacts and all participant numbers were less than in 2017, which might be partially explained a four-month vacancy in the KWEC program specialist position and redirected staff efforts to complete an exhibit enhancement project. 

But, “during 2018, the KWEC saw its most significant enhancement project to its exhibit hall since opening in 2009 with the installation of 12 new exhibit features, including 14 interactive pieces,” Wolf said. These replace some of the original displays dating back a decade and funding came from the Dorothy Morrison Foundation.

KWEC staff continued to offer a diverse set of programs through both on-site and outreach platforms totaling 653 total programs. School programs dominated the program offerings with 453 total school programs being offered, and Wolf said the center has contact with just about every kindergarten through sixth-grade student in USD 428 each year. 

“Other public educational programs, special events, and meetings were also important draws for KWEC visitors,” he said. These included the annual Butterfly Festival (with more than 550 participants), a Bat Fair, Winter Kids’ program, Prairie Chicken Lek Tours, Wild Goose Chase 3K/5k Fun Run, Great Migration Rally, Nature Discovery Summer Kids Camps, Perseid Meteor Shower Watch Party, Hunter Appreciation Breakfast, Holiday Open House, two STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) drop-in days, Summer Library Reading programs, Great Bend Rec programs, 4-H programs, and Shorebird Conservation Workshop. 

KWEC also installed new billboard designs on three billboards, installed new decals on the KWEC van, Wolf said. In addition it purchased outdoor flags that can be placed at the KWEC entrance to attract visitors.

“This one of those from which the area receives major quality of life benefits,” Wolf said. Looking at the 10 goals identified by the Great Bend Better than Great visioning effort, the center meets at least four of them.

Looking forward

“We look forward to our continued partnerships and exciting prospects for 2019,” he said. On deck this year will be the biennial Wings and Wetlands Birding Festival which brings in over 100 bird watchers and birding enthusiasts from across the country.

The number of attendees has dipped some in recent years, and Wolf said the were about ready to scrap it. But, the event is one that gets the center’s message out nationwide and is worth the massive amount of work it takes to stage.

The national organization Nature Conservancy has helped spread word about the fest, he said.

He also spotlighted the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway Committee. Newly energized, Wolf said the group is identifying goals on how to improve marketing the scenic route between Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

The CVB has helped promote the committee’s efforts, he said.


Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance:

Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:

• Heard the annual report on the Kansas Wetlands Education Center from Director Curtis Wolf.

• Approved a change order number five for the ongoing waterline replacement project.

The current remaining budget available for additional waterline improvements total $402,262.23. Staff has identified some additional waterline replacements along Forest Avenue from Jackson Street to Washington Street that totaled $236,439.00 and an abandonment for an existing line at Ninth and Stone that totaled $3,365.40. The Publics Works Department and Fire Department are also  requesting the addition of Storz Nozzles (non-threaded outlet connections that allow a fast quarter-turn connection to the fire hydrant pumper nozzle) on 53 new fire hydrants as a part of the waterline replacement project for a cost of $52,497.00. The total cost for change order would not exceed

$297,301.40, the city’s on-call city engineer Josh Golka, with Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita. Additional fees to PEC would not exceed $5,000.

• Approved a merchant police service license for G45 Secure Solutions USA Inc. of Kansas City, Mo. Operations Manager Julian Batts is wanting to provide security at a local business here in Great Bend. 

• Approved a cereal-malt beverage license for Edgar Jacobs with the Odin Store. He requested the one-day license for the Young Professionals Casino Night that is to be held on Saturday, March 16.

• Approved a request for unlicensed businesses to serve complimentary alcohol on their premises for the Art andWine Walk event. It is set for 4-7:30 p.m. May 2.

• Approved abatements at: 1500 19th, accumulation of trash/refuse, owned by lsmael Dominguez; 1500 19th, motor vehicle nuisance, owned by lsmael Dominguez; 1719 Holland, accumulation of trash/refuse, owned by Juan Flores; 1715 Heizer, motor vehicle nuisance, owned by Julio Cesar Palacio; 1201 Odell, motor vehicle nuisance, owned by Lee Culling; and 417 Elm, motor vehicle nuisance, owned by Karina Silva and Monica Castillo. 

• Heard an economic development report from Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development President Jan Peters.

• Heard an update on city activities from City Administrator Kendal Francis.

Kansas Wetlands Education Center

2018 Highlights

Special Events

• Winter Kids Program Series 

• NABA Butterfly Count

• Bat Fair (97 participants) 

• Ellinwood AHF Turtle Races

• Turtle Tots preschool program 

• Perseids Meteor Shower Viewing ( 195 participants)

• Special Spring Break activity offerings

• Cheyenne Bottoms Youth Outdoor Day

• Great Migration Rally (102 participants)

• Butterfly Festival (588 participants)

• 3-day Shorebird Conservation Symposium

• Hunter Appreciation Breakfast (145 participants)

• Wild Goose Chase Fun Run (56 participants)

• Star Gazing (56 participants)

• CKPC Nature Photo Workshop (38 participants)

• 2 Drop-in STEM Days (94 and 174 participants)

• Gifts ofthe Garden Series (2 workshops)

• KWEC Holiday Open House (136 participants)

• 2 Nature Discovery Kids Summer Camps

• Cheyenne Bottoms Christmas Bird Count

Trade shows/booths

• Participated in several local/regional exhibitions: Denver Travel Adventure Show (in coop with GBCVB), USD 428 Business Showcase, Osborne Youth Outdoor Fair, and BCC Jack Kilby Academic Carnival.

Education programs

• Conducted 453 school programs with most area schools.

• Regular programming with USD 428, Great Bend Recreation Commission, summer library programs, Boy Scouts, and added 4-H programming and FHSU Elementary Science Methods training.

• Held 2 STEM Drop-in days during off-school days.

• Maintained several citizen science programs: Cheyenne Bottoms Frog Watch Chapter, North American Butterfly Association Butterfly Count, Monarch Butterfly tagging, Cheyenne Bottoms Christmas Bird Count.

• Offered 167 paid van tours plus 39 paid prairie-chicken lek tours.

• Hosted a KWEC Volunteer Appreciation dinner.


• Completed KWEC Exhibit Enhancement project, adding 12 new interactive exhibits. 

• Hosted joint Chamber Coffee and Ribbon Cutting event.

• Installed graphic decals on KWEC van.

• Replaced 3 KWEC billboard panels.

• Purchased outdoor welcome banners for KWEC entrance.


2019 Calendar of Events

(Dates are tentative and subject to change)

• Feb. 2 - World Wetlands Day

• Feb. 16 - Winter family /kids program

• March 9-17 - KWEC Spring Break STEM Drop-in activities

• March-April - Prairie Chicken Lek tours (schedule listed on KWEC website)

• April-August - FrogWatch monitoring

• April 13 - Earth Day event-Rain Barrel workshop, recycling activities, alternative energy demonstrations, plant give-away.

• May 3-4 - The biennial Wings & Wetlands Birding Festival see

• May 18 - CKPC Digital Photography Seminar with Ellen Nelson.

• June TBD - -Gifts of the Garden Series Adult Workshop #1.

• June 11-13 - BCC STEM Camp-Discover the Wetlands for ninth to 11th graders. 

• June 17 - KWEC STEM Drop-in activities.

• June 28 - Aquatic Day Camp-register through Great Bend Recreation Commission.

• July 8, 10, 12 - Nature Dicovery I Kids Camps (Grades 1-3) 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

• July 15, 17, 19 - Nature Discovery II Kids Camps (Grades 4-6) 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

• July TBD - NABA Butterfly Count 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

• July TBD - Gifts of the Garden Series Adult Workshop #2.

• Aug. 9 - Perseid Meteor Shower watch party 9 -ll p.m.

• August TBD - Gifts of the Garden Series Adult Workshop #3.

• August TBD - Friends of Cheyenne Bottoms/KDWPT/Youth Outdoor Day.

• Sept. 21- Butterfly Festival 9 a.m.-noon.

• Oct. 6 - Wild Foods and Medicine from the Cheyenne Bottoms Area: a plant hike field trip with Kelly Kindscher 2 -5 p.m.

• Oct. 12 - Hunter Appreciation Day and Breakfast.

• Oct. 18 - KWEC STEM Drop-in activities.

• October TBD - Star Gazing Workshop with FHSU Astronomy Club.

• Dec. 7 - KWEC Holiday Open House.

• Dec. 16 - Cheyenne Bottoms Christmas Bird Count.

• Dec. 27 - KWEC STEM Drop-in activities.