Kansas Trails News – 2010

JUNE 2010


A 30-year-old Lawrence man was arrested June 16 for allegedly stabbing a 23-year-old Lawrence woman as she was riding her bike along the SLT Hike and Bike Path just east of Clinton Lake Dam Road. The suspect allegedly attempted to rape the Danish woman and stabbed her repeatedly. The victim has serious but not life-threatening injuries. Fortunately, two teenagers, Aidan Waugh and Nathaniel Mehl, whoe were jogging on the path came upon the attack and intervened. One assisted the woman and called 911 using her cell phone and the other chased the suspect. Police used a police dog to track down the man. It’s very possible that the teenagers saved the woman’s life and certainly from being raped.

The suspect, William Nichols, had moved to Lawrence a few months ago. He staked out the path in search of a random victim.

Violent crime on recreational trails is rare because heavily-used trails tend to be self-policing. That is, potential offenders don’t want any witnesses or rescuers.

KDOT FUNDS TOPEKA  LANDON TRAIL SECTION.  Terry Bertles, Director of Topeka Parks and Recreation, reports that KDOT has decided to pick up the Landon Nature Trail project inside the city limits and do the entire project.   Instead of only going to 32nd Street, they are going all the way to 45th Street.  That is more than 20 blocks of concrete pathway and two bridges.  We are trying to get the time for start on it.

AMERICAN DISCOVERY TRAIL LEGISLATION. The following was submitted by Ron Ruoff who is the Kansas Coordinator for the American Discovery Trail.

Discovery Trails Legislation:

Your Help Needed!

H.R. 4671, the National Discovery Trails Act,

Legislation to officially designate the American Discovery Trail as a part of the National Trails System was just re-introduced in the U.S. Congress.  Your help is urgently needed to ensure its passage.

You can help! Ask your representative to become a co-sponsor of H.R. 4671. The ADTS website – www.discoverytrail.org/news/ issues – contains information to help you do just that, including how to contact your representative and sample letters that you can modify to add your personal touch. You can view H.R. 4671 and get your representative’s address at www.house.gov. Hard copy letters or phone calls often receive more attention than e-mails, but a quick e-mail letter can also help if that is all you have time to do. Ask your friends and family to do the same. The more people who contact their representatives, the better our chances.

Why We Need this Legislation

Here are the basics on this important legislation to help you craft your letter to your member of Congress. Let’s all work together to make 2010 the year this legislation passes!

Why support the National Discovery Trail Act?

The American Discovery Trail benefits local areas by attracting tourist dollars and bringing national visibility.

It benefits the country by connecting five national scenic, 12 national historic, and 34 national recreation trails. It is the backbone of the national trails system.

It benefits our citizens’ health by providing outdoor opportunities to keep fit, burn calories, and fight obesity. It brings a national trail to a huge population because some 32 million people live within 20 miles of the trail.

The ADT is a public-private partnership that is cost-effective with the vast majority of the work being done by volunteers.

The presence of the ADT has resulted in many local trails being developed.

What does the act do?

It amends the National Trails System Act to create a new category of long-distance trails called national discovery trails and designates the ADT as the first trail under that category.

Why create a new category of national trails?

A National Park Service study recommended this because the American Discovery Trail fills an important spot in the National Trails System but it doesn’t fit into the traditional categories of national scenic or national historic trail. Discovery trails are different because they emphasize accessibility to more people by deliberate routing through small towns and major metropolitan areas, providing trails close to the homes of all Americans.

Why do we want this designation?

We need the designation to fully mark the ADT. Without it, we are in legal limbo and many federal and other land managers will not allow us to mark the trail on lands they administer. This designation adds legitimacy and visibility to the ADT. Becoming part of the National Trails System will enhance its eligibility for technical assistance from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program.

The legislation is not a question of land acquisition, but of designation and recognition. The American Discovery Trail follows existing trails, country lanes, and towpaths, which are already maintained by local, state, and federal governments. It is already almost entirely on public land. The few exceptions are by landowner invitation on existing rights-of-way or agreement, such as Indiana’s Cardinal Greenway, which is owned by a non-profit organization with the mission of making the trail accessible to the public. It brings unique qualities to the National Trails System by supplying connections that are currently missing.

BUFFALO COMMMONS NATIONAL PARK PROPOSED AGAIN. Another editorial in the KC Star (6-06-10) advocates the establishment of a national park in western Kansas. Go to the website listed and voice your support for a national park in Kansas.

Mr. President, Kansas needs a national park

[ By The Kansas City Star Editorial Board ]

President Barack Obama’s “Great American Outdoors” initiative almost seems to have been written with our region in mind.

The initiative notes that Americans are “losing touch with too many of the places and proud traditions that have helped to make America special.” And nowhere is that loss more evident that here, in the midst of the Great Plains, particularly in Kansas.

Less than 4 percent of the prairies — tallgrass, mixed grass and short grass —is left. This region once dwarfed the scope of Africa’s famed Serengeti in size and equaled it in biodiversity. As the breadbasket of the world and the source of food for a rapidly growing nation, it fueled U.S. expansion.

But little has been done to celebrate or preserve that heritage. The Midwest is under-represented in parkland. Kansas particularly so.

Consider federal land ownership. The federal government owns 84 percent of Nevada, 57 percent of Utah, 53 percent of Oregon, 45 percent of California and 36 percent of Colorado. It owns 1.2 percent of Kansas, leaving the state near the bottom for federal land involvement. While too much federal land ownership would be unwise, the dearth here means the rolling plains of Kansas are not preserved and not easily accessible for other Kansans or other Americans to visit.

Kansas does host the much-needed Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, a federal project. But the story of the prairie is the story of unlimited space, the sort of scope that led pioneers to dream. At just under 11,000 acres, the Tallgrass Preserve is too small to fully tell the story. This is a shame.

Kansas defines the American prairie, the world’s most endangered ecosystem. The prairie is also environmentally important. It both hosts a wide range of plants and animals, and is one of nature’s most efficient carbon traps, as plants draw carbon from the air and store it underground.

The Star again proposes that the western edge of Kansas would be a perfect home for a Buffalo Commons National Park. The million-acre park would serve as a home to re-introduce prairie wildlife, including herds of bison. It would also serve as an economic boost to counties surrounding the park, areas that have seen their populations fall by a quarter in the last 30 years.

Agriculture in these counties becomes more difficult every year as water reserves dwindle dangerously.

The Great Outdoors discussion already includes a similar suggestion. But the initiative wants to hear from the public. Log on and get involved in the discussion.

Vote for and voice ideas that would help this country reconnect with its wilderness.

The address is:
www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/ It requires a quick registration.

But it is worth the time. The idea for a Buffalo Commons first came up in 1987, when two Rutgers’ University researchers ignited a prairie fire by suggesting much of the high plains, including a large swath of Kansas farmland, should be returned to its natural state. Today, more and more people see the establishment of a large national park in the west as one of that area’s last chances for survival.

As former Kansas Governor and once fierce critic Mike Hayden said last year as Kansas secretary of Wildlife and Parks: “The model we’re now following has failed. Buffalo Commons makes more sense every year.”

And Obama’s Great Outdoors Initiative offers a chance to be heard, and perhaps a chance to make this happen. Those who love and respect Kansas, and American heritage, should take advantage of this opportunity.

SKYLINE PRAIRIE DRIVE: LONELIEST ROAD IN KANSAS.  The loneliest road in Kansas is so desolate and remote, there are no houses or vehicles for miles and miles. The Skyline Prairie Drive, stretching between Matfield Green and Madison, traverses the tallgrass prairie of the Central Flint Hills. The road passes through a highly scenic area once proposed for a tallgrass prairie national park. There are magnificent views from an informal Scenic Overlook where one can see tallgrass prairie for 25+ miles in three directions.


This is Open Range country where the cattle roam freely and may stand on the road (proceed very slowly and do not honk horn so as not to startle them.)  Since there are no fences or signs, it is not technically trespassing to walk on the Open Range (unless the landowner asks the visitor to leave and the visitor refuses).


This is also one of the windiest sites in Kansas (average wind speed of 17.3 mph). Texaco Hill (elevation 1,637 ft.) is the high point (there are scattered oil wells which won’t be around forever).


Directions: Go west of Emporia on US 50, at Strong City take K-177 south to Matfield Green. On the east edge of Matfield Green take the first right and follow the road south for 3.5 miles. Then go east toward Madison. The gravel is rough, so be sure to have good tires and a spare tire.

US 75 TRAIL BRIDGE WORK BEGAN JUNE 1 NEAR LYNDON. Construction began June 1 on replacing the old railroad bridge over US 75 north of Lyndon in Osage County. A new bike-ped bridge will allow KDOT to widen US 75 and enable trail users on the Flint Hills Nature Trail to travel safely over the busy highway. The project is expected to be completed in October.

The following appeared in the June 2 edition of the KC Star.

National Park Service plans Kansas meetings to discuss designating historic trails

The National Park Service plans meetings in Kansas this month to discuss designating the Chisholm and Great Western cattle trails as historic trails. The agency is also encouraging people to submit comments online or in writing by July 5. The meetings will be June 22 in Dodge City, June 24 in Wichita and June 25 in Abilene, all important cattle towns during the 19th century.

The Chisholm Trail (1867-1887) stretched 350 miles north from the Red River Station in north Texas to Abilene, Kansas. Millions of cattle were driven by thousands of cowboys.  The cattle drives to railroad heads in Kansas were considerable undertakings. The cowboys would experience intense dust, blizzards, thunderstorms, periods of boredom and often inedible food. Approximately one-third of the cowboys were African American or Mexican. In fact much of the cowboy gear and culture came from the Vaqueros. The cook was often African American.

The cowboys would sing to the herds at night to keep them quiet and the songs became part of American Western folklore and folk music.

In the five years from 1867 to 1872, more than 3 million head of cattle were driven up the trail from Texas to Abilene. Abilene became the first of the wild cattle towns where gambling places, saloons, and dance halls competed for the cowboys wages. Gun fights were frequent and several peace officers resigned. The first to bring order was Tom Smith. More famous was “Wild Bill” Hickok who became known as the deadliest two-gun marshal on the Western frontier (Source: Kansas Historical Marker, Kansas State Historical Society).

Clark H. Coan
Public Information Specialist
Sunflower Recreational Trails
P.O. Box 44-2043
Lawrence, KS 66044