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Traffic increases at Wetlands Center
Numerous activities attract visitors to the facility
new deh city council wetlands center pic
It was a busy year in 2015 at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, Site Manager Curtis Wolf told the Great Bend City Council Monday night. - photo by Tribune file photo

 In other business Monday night, the Great Bend City Council:

• Mayor Mike Allison named Great Bend Municipal Airport Manager Martin Miller, Airport Advisory Committee President Brock McPherson, City Councilman Joel Jackson and AAC member and businessman Chris Spray to an Air Service Review Committee. The U.S. Department of Transportation will be receiving proposals from air carriers to provide air service due to SeaPort dropping service to Great Bend. The committee will look over proposals for a new Essential Air Service provider.

• Authorized the purchase of a Great Bend Events Center digital sound system from Parr Sound and Lighting of Great Bend for the events center at a cost of $$15,342 (a $5,000 donation from Parr Sound reduced the price from $23,342). Also for the center, the council authorized city personnel to move forward with the roofing repairs as proposed by Washington Roofing of Great Bend at a cost of $43,500 for the 17,400-square-foot office portion of the facility roof. Last year, Washington Roofing did the north side of the center’s roof.

• Authorized Mayor Mike Allison to sign a grant agreement with the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation for a Housing Opportunities project in the amount of $175,000. There will be more about this in Wednesday’s Tribune.

• Approved the annual fire protection contracts between the city and county townships. The contracts are for: Great Bend Township, $60,147; Liberty Township, $17,969; South Bend Township, $22,718; and Buffalo Township, $27,872. This is an increase from 2015, Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano said.

• Approved a tree trimmer and shrub treater license for My Lawn! Consultation Services of Great Bend.

 A lot has happened at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, center Site Manager Curtis Wolf told the Great Bend City Council Monday night during his annual report. 

“The 2015 year continued to be a busy year of visitors, special events, and public programs at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center,” he said. Total contacts increased 3 percent over the previous year, with almost 24,000 total contacts in 2015. 

“These contacts included participants in more than 600 programs conducted by KWEC staff, including 402 school programs, recreation commission programs, scouting programs, special events, and regular public programs,” he said. “The center continues to grow in our visitor services, on-site programming, off-site programming, and facilities planning. Staff members are committed to providing all visitors to the area a quality experience as they discover or rediscover our local natural resource of Cheyenne Bottoms.” 

Wolf also said the center was originally all funded by the State of Kansas with the money funneled through Fort Hays State University. However, “over the years, we’ve taken our cuts like everyone else.”

In the last two years, the state has cut 43 percent of the center’s budget, he said. Thankfully, FHSU has stepped in to help fill the funding gaps.

He provided a summary of some of accomplishment highlights. They included:

• The total number of contacts increased from 23,094 in 2014 to 23,781 in 2015. The largest share of these were came from drop-in visitors which increased from 6,829 to 7,073.

• Quarterly craft workshop series, Monthly Cheyenne Bottoms Naturalist Club programs, winter and summer kids program series, “Waters of Kansas” film screening, Wings ‘n Wetlands Birding Festival (131 registrants), Central Kansas Photography Club Nature photography workshop (35 participants), butterfly count, meteor shower viewing (60 participants), Butterfly Festival (381 participants), hunter appreciation breakfast (112 participants) and the KWEC holiday open house (85 participants).

• Participated in several local/regional events: Great Bend June Jaunt, Ellinwood After Harvest Festival parade, Garden City Earth Day, Wilson Earth Day, Lawrence Earth Day, Barton Community college Jack Kilby Science Day, USD 428 Business Showcase, Ft. Riley Travel Expo, Ellsworth Cowtown Days, Heartland Farms Peace Camp and  Santa Fe Trail Center back-to-school event.

• Sold 16 federal duck stamps through KWEC Gift Store.

• Hosted Gov. Sam Brownback for meeting on Cheyenne Bottoms and birding tour education programs.

• Conducted 402 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, Summer library programs, Larned State Hospital and Sunflower Diversified Services.

• Maintained several citizen science programs: Cheyenne Bottoms Frog-Watch Chapter, North American Butterfly Association butterfly count, monarch butterfly tagging and the Cheyenne Bottoms Christmas bird count.

• Offered 160 paid van tours plus 69 paid prairie-chicken lek tours.

• Contracted new KWEC billboard location near K-156 Hwy Exit on I-70.

There was also the addition of cell phone tours of the Bottoms using the Great Bend Tribune’s GB2GO app.

This year, Wolf said, will see the return of the Wild Goose Chase 5k/3k Fun Run (held on the off years for the biennial Wings and Wetlands Birding Festival), the Hunter Appreciation Day and Breakfast and a frog- and toad-themed art show at Barton Community College’s Shafer Art Gallery.