Volunteers start work on Kaw boat ramp
A local effort to build a boat ramp to the Kansas River started in earnest last week when equipment from R.L. Duncan Construction started excavating the future ramp.
De Soto City Councilwoman Betty Cannon, who was asked to spearhead the stalled ramp project, recruited the local construction company to do the work.
"It's a big commitment," Cannon said. "They'll be out there a week."
The contractor donated the large limestone rocks placed at the base of the ramp in addition to the equipment and manpower needed to improve a ramp at the site on 79th Street now called Kaw River Park.
Talk of a ramp on the site started soon after the city purchased 36 acres from Holliday Sand in the West Bottoms in November 2003 for $60,000.
Mike Calwell and others from the Kansas River awareness group Friends of the Kaw spoke at a De Soto City Council, promising to help with the effort.
The first steps were obtaining needed state and federal permits, a task Calwell took on. As that process went forward, De Soto city engineer Mike Brungardt designed the ramp after touring the site with Calwell for possible ramp locations.
"It's going to provide us with a maintenance-free ramp," he said. "It's in a place the river will scour and clean the ramp. I can't tell you how much that helps. You'll be down there repeatedly cleaning it off if you don't find the right place."
Calwell, who has helped other cities along the river with ramps, said it was the Friends of the Kaw's goal to have ramps on the river every 10 miles. The De Soto ramp was just the latest example of momentum toward that goal, he said.
"It's a long time coming," he said. "There's been a lot of interest from floaters, fishermen or whatever, but it's been too fragmented. Nobody has been able to put together all the different groups up and down the river. That's been our role."
Calwell said he and Friends of the Kaw did that by soliciting mayors of cities along the river with the message that ramps help tap into unused recreational resource. Key to the success is the use of volunteer labor and materials to build the ramps, he said.
That not only takes the financial burden off cities but creates an interest and sense of ownership among those who make the ramps possible, Calwell said.
"The neatest thing about this is when the community pitches in and builds it, then it becomes their ramp," he said. "Then they watch over it and protect it."
The call for help is now going out. Calwell said when the excavation was completed, he would look for help with the concrete work.
"It's a two-part deal," he said. "The first pour sits on plastic, and then you get a big old bulldozer to push it down in the water.
"It has rebar sticking up from the first piece we pour. We build forms right up to the landing part. It turns out pretty good."
Calwell said anyone wanting to help with that work should call him at (913) 677-2088.
He and the Friends of the Kaw have helped with recent ramp constructions in Wamego and Edwardsville, Calwell said.
The two nearest ramps providing access to the Kansas River are on tributaries (in Eudora and the Johnson County Parks and Recreation ramp on Kill Creek).
"I won't participate unless a ramp offers access directly to the river," Calwell said. "The problem with putting an access ramp on tributary is it freezes. There's a lot of days you can get on the river to duck hunt or fish, but the tributaries freeze up."
Calwell said the Friends of the Kaw wanted more access to the river in the hope it would translate into greater demand that it be cleaned of contamination.
"If they get on it and use it, they are going to protect it," he said.