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KWEC adds new features to enhance facility
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This new outdoor structure at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center will allow for outdoor classroom time and as well as unobstructed views of the prairie. - photo by KAREN LA PIERRE

CHEYENNE BOTTOMS — The Kansas Wetlands Education Center has add a covered structure and a butterfly garden to enhance the outdoor experience at the center.

Although there were always plans to have a covered structure, it was cut because of funding. The Nature Conservancy, which owns the northern portion of Cheyenne Bottoms and is dedicated to conservation, has now stepped forward and provided funding for the structure. "The intent is that it is a place where visitors can look at unmitigated marsh," said Curtis Wolf, manager of KWEC.

The facility can be used as an outdoor classroom, and plans are in place for it to be used during the upcoming 2nd annual 2nd grade Wetlands Education Day.

The $50,000 project took about three weeks to build although it was in the works for a year, according to Wolf. The beams are made of laminated pressure treated wood and it has a metal roof. In addition, some concrete work was done.

It took three weeks to build, and the shelter is open for use.

Butterfly Garden

"We started planning one year ago," said KWEC Educator Pam Martin, for a butterfly garden. The center received a grant from the Kansas Associated Gardener Club Wildflower Committee for $1,000 to buy plants.

Martin received help from a wide variety of sources in planting and landscaping. The Nature Conservancy provided workers, and Girl Scout Troop 20293 also provided volunteer labor. Biology students from Barton Community College dug trenches for the brick pathway.

A fountain and a brick walkway have been installed, and a fence was added to block wind.

This spring, Martin ordered plants. She researched prairie plants from Dycke Arboretum and Dillon Nature Center. A variety of plants were ordered that appeal to different creatures such as coneflower, yarrow, milkweed, parsley, angelonia, monarda, cardinal and canna lily. "The portulaca is doing quite well," Martin said.

"We went with tough plants,"she said."Unfortunately, weather is a challenge. With the extreme heat and drought, keeping the plants going has been a challenge. Mulching did help though."

Birds come and drink from the fountain as well as bees, swallowtail and buckeye butterflies.

"We’re tickled with it. We’re doing what we set out to do," said Martin. "Butterflies especially the monarch have lost so much habitat. This helps bees too."

The Soroptimists Club has also given a donation.

Eventually, the plants will be labelled. Plans for next year include using gourds for bird feeders and feeding hummingbirds.