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Education center increasing number of programs
new deh county commissionl wetlands center pic web
Kansas Wetlands Education Center Executive Director Curtis Wolf thanked Barton County commissioners Monday morning for years of partnership. - photo by Tribune file photo

Members for Byway Committee sought

There are some vacancies on the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway Committee, said Kansas Wetlands Education Center Site Manager Curtis Wolf. So he, as part of the group, is encouraging anyone interested to get involved.

For more information, contact Wolf at 620-566-1456 or

 Although fewer people passed through the doors of the Kansas Wetlands Education Center in 2016 than 2015, Site Manager Curtis Wolf Barton County commissioners Monday morning there has been no shortage of activity at the facility.

“We continue to be busy at the Wetlands Education Center,” Wolf said. 

“In 2016, the Kansas Wetlands Education Center continued its excellence in providing services, events and education to visitors, students, travelers, and locals,” Wolf said. Total contacts (22,886) decreased slightly from 2015, but numbers of programs increased. A total of 669 programs were conducted by KWEC staff, including school programs, recreation commission programs, scouting programs, special events, and regular public programs, he said. “I am proud of that.”

The number of drop-in visitors increased from an average of 20 per day last year to 23 this year.  

“The center continues to grow in our visitor services, on-site programming, off-site programming, and facilities planning,” he said. “Staff are committed to providing all visitors to the area a quality experience as they discover or rediscover our local natural resource of Cheyenne Bottoms.”

Special events included:

• The addition of a new exhibit featuring the calls and sounds of frogs and toads.

• The purchase of youth lab coats and naturalist vests for the children to use while attending programs. “They should look like scientists,” Wolf said.

• Quarterly craft workshop series, quarterly Cheyenne Bottoms Naturalist Club programs, winter and summer kids program series, Wild Goose Chase 5k/3k (110 registrants), Great Migration Rally with Camp Aldrich (160 participants), CKPC Nature Photography Workshop (41 participants), four flower-themed adult programs, butterfly count, meteor shower viewing (140 participants), Butterfly festival (307 participants), hunter appreciation breakfast (88 participants) and KWEC holiday open house (92 participants).

• Participated in several local/regional events: Garden City Earth Day, Kansas Sampler Festival, USD 428 Business Showcase and Heartland Farms Peace Camp.

• Hosted the State ECOmeet competition in cooperation with Camp Aldrich.

• Sold 25 federal duck stamps through KWEC Gift Store.

Education programs included:

• Conducted 511 school programs with most area schools and added several new schools.

• Regular programming with USD 428, Great Bend Recreation Commission, local retirement homes, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and summer library programs.

• Maintained several citizen science programs: Cheyenne Bottoms Frog Watch Chapter, NABA butterfly count, monarch butterfly tagging and Cheyenne Bottoms Christmas bird count.

• Offered 140 paid van tours plus four large bus tours groups and 38 paid prairie-chicken lek tours.

• New junior naturalist vest and lab coats for kids to wear during programs.

• Designed and installed new frog and toad call exhibit.

• Designed and installed new prairie dog interpretive panel.

Coming down the road

In addition to a busy 2016, Wolf said there are plans for more this year.

• A grant will allow them to renovate existing their eight-year-old exhibits and make them more interactive.

• Another grant from the Golden Belt Community Foundation will help develop a “nature playscape,” he said. This is a playground featuring natural elements such as stumps, hills and sandboxes.

• This is the year for the biennial Wings and Wetlands Birding Festival. In 2915, it attracted attendees from 18 states and registrations from all over the country are already coming in for the event, set for April 28 and 29 during the spring migration.

KWEC is a branch of Fort Hays State University’s Werth College of Science, Technology and Math and is operated by Fort Hays State University personnel. The facility overlooks the 19,857 acre Cheyenne Bottom Wildlife Area managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and the 7,694 acre Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy.