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Drought plagues Wetlands Center
Still, last year was a busy one
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In this past year, Mother Nature ruled the roost at Cheyenne Bottoms and the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, Site Manager Curtis Wolf told the Great Bend City Council Monday night in his annual report on the activities KWEC.
“I’m kind of glad to see 2013 go,” Wolf said. “It’s been a rough year for us.”
The year was dominated by extremes, Wolf said. One of the extremes that had the largest effect on the KWEC was the lingering three-year drought.
“The drought caused the wetlands to be dry for over half of 2013,” he said. Rains at the end of July and beginning of August put water levels back to near normal, however, the Spring migration and spring and summer events at the KWEC were greatly affected.
Conversely, the Fall season was excellent for both wildlife and people as the center created and performed a diversity of programs to a diversity of patrons throughout the year. With drop-in numbers down, these programs were the center’s bread and butter.
The KWEC offered a total of 474 programs (232 onsite; 242 outreach), 10 more than in 2012 and servicing a total of 12,386 participants. Drop-in visitorship suffered the most from the drought, with almost 1,000 fewer visitors. The total number of contacts in 2013 was 20,661, which was a 6,000 total decrease from 2012, surely a result of the drought conditions and a suppressed advertising campaign.
The numbers for the for the years of 2011, 2012 and 2013 were:
• Drop-in visitors – 7,197 (20 per day) in 2011, 7,238 (21 per day) in 2012 and 6,248 (18 per day) in 2013.
• Onsite programs (number of participants) – 166 (4,504) in 2011, 223 (4,904) in 2012 and 232 (4,829) in 2013.
• Outreach programs (number of participants) – 196 (14,781) in 2011, 241 (11,240) in 2012 and 242 (7,557) in 2013.
• Facility rentals (number of participants) – 34 (655) in 2011, 10 (323) in 2012 and 24 (354) in 2013.
• Tradeshow/festival booths (Estimated contacts) – three (4,975) in 2011, three (3,028) in 2012 and five (1,673) in 2013.
• Total number served 32,112,  26,733  and 20,661.
Notable special events included: Winter family programs; spider program (42 participants), prairie chicken lek tours, Wild Goose Chase 5k/1mile (167 registered), 101 Ways to Help Birds, Earth Day Celebration (200 participants), soap making workshop, NABA butterfly count, Perseid meteor shower viewing (55 participants), Mad About Monarchs (150 participants), crane viewing tours (33 participants), beaded jewelry workshop and  Christmas bird count.
There is also a new billboard on I-70 and a coloring contest for area students.
Wolf said they conducted 303 school programs with most area schools and added several new schools. They are still Scheduled programming for grades K-6 with USD 428 for 2013-2014 school year.
In addition, the center also strengthened relations with other groups, such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, was involved in area festivals and added animals to its exhibits. Also, a new all-purpose shelter for outside activities was added.
For this year, Wolf said they want to bolster visitor numbers and on-going programs, offer at lease on program per month, establish an adult Cheyenne Bottoms Naturalist club to meet regularly, reach out to communities and organizations and continue to promote the center.
So far, he said, this spring is looking to be a good one for the center and the bottoms.