County offices to close next Monday
Barton County Office Buildings will be closed Monday, Feb. 18, in observance of Presidents Day. The Records Division of the Sheriff’s Office and the Health Department will also be closed. The landfill will close at 11 a.m. that day. Emergency services will be in normal operation.
The Barton County Commission will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Courthouse, 1400 Main in Great Bend, instead of on Monday.
Kansas Wetlands Education Center Site Manager Curtis Wolf had one word to summarize this past year at Cheyenne Bottoms – dry.
“The major theme this year is the drought,” he said in giving his annual report to the Barton County Commission Monday morning. But, despite the lingering dry spell that has left Cheyenne Bottoms dry since July and has suppressed bird migrations in the area, the center continued to offer a wide range of programs to the public and schools.
In 2012, KWEC offered over 400 programs, serving over of 16,000 participants, he said. “We tried to make the best of it,” he said. In addition to their programs, the staff has used the drought as a teaching opportunity.
The total number of contacts was over 26,000, which is a 17 percent decrease from 2011. “Surely, that is a result of the drought conditions,” Wolf said.
Although not as much as he would have liked to have seen, Wolf said drop-in traffic has increased. During the summer, the center is now open on Mondays making the facility more accessible to travelers.
Programs included Earth Day,the monarch tagging event held in conjunction with the Bikers, Bombers and Butterflies Weekend, a statewide gubernatorial Ecotourism Summit and the establishment of a Frog Watch chapter. In addition there was the Great Migration Rally and the second-annual Wetlands Day for Barton County second graders.
Many of these events, Wolf said, drew hundreds of visitors to the center.
The KWEC also took part in the first-ever June Jaunt and had a booth at the Kansas Sampler Festival in Liberal.
For this year, Wolf said they hope to increase drop-in traffic, offer one public program per month, recruit additional research opportunities and partner with the Great Bend Zoo, the Barton County Historical Society and other area attractions to develop joint field trips.
There are also plans for a 5K run ( to be called the Wild Goose Chase) at the bottoms and for a picnic shelter to be built with help from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
“Growing up in the area, there is a lot of stuff you take for granted,” Commissioner Don Davis said. He appreciated the efforts of Wolf and his staff.
Just as the center continues to thrive, Wolf said the wetlands around it will survive as well. The blood worms and other insects that serve as food for the migrating birds go into dormancy during the drought and the migrating birds find other places to seek refuge.
“They are resilient,” he said. “The ecology of how a wetlands works is incredible.”
However, the wide-spread nature of the drought has caused some concern. Area lakes and bodies of water in the eastern part of the state have seen more birds.
Wolf did say they are seeing an early start to the spring migration with sand hill cranes arriving at the Bottoms a month early and whooping cranes already being spotted at Quivira Wildlife Refuge in Stafford County. “We don’t know what all that means.”
The Kansas Wetlands Education Center is a branch of the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays and is operated by Fort Hays State University personnel. The facility commands a sweeping view of the 19,857 acre Cheyenne Bottom Wildlife Area managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the 7,694 acre Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy.
In other business, the commission:
• Approved the 2012 County Property Inventory. By state law, each County officer and head of a department must make an inventory of the personal property owned by the county and located in their respective offices or departments. The inventory is to take place in December and filed with the county clerk by Dec. 31. The results are presented to the commission during February of each year. Information Technology Director John Debes heads up the effort.
• Attended the annual Township Meeting hosted by the Barton County Engineer’s Office at the Great Bend Elks Lodge. After a light agenda, the commission adjourned to take part in the gathering.