Archive for Thursday, December 15, 2005

Commitments make accessible Kaw’s charm

December 15, 2005

Sometime next month, De Soto will have a new boat ramp giving access to the Kansas River.

The long-planned boat ramp raced toward reality in recent weeks thanks to De Soto Councilmember Betty Cannon's call for help from R.L. Duncan Construction. The contractor made a significant commitment in the project. At a time when the city has seen project after project come at the same 20 percent more than estimated, Duncan made three pieces of earthmoving equipment available for the boat ramp's excavation. The donation surely amounted to several thousand dollars.

It's the local sportsmen and nature enthusiasts who really owe Duncan a word of thanks. The completion of the boat ramp will make the Kansas River much more accessible. It gives a focus to the development of the 30 acres the city purchased in 2004 into Kaw River Park.

Central to De Soto's very existence, the Kaw is now virtually ignored or dismissed as a dirty drainage ditch. Those looking for an adventure on the pristine waters of a mountain raft trip will never be attracted to the Kaw. Its meandering channel has never run clean and never will -- no matter how much is done to improve its water quality. By the time it reaches De Soto, the river has emptied more than 300 miles of Kansas farmland.

Its advocates insist this misses the point. West of De Soto and east to Kansas Highway 7, the river bottom is more undeveloped than it was half a century ago. The river's enthusiasts say that to be down on the river is to be transported from the modern pace of life that continues beyond its banks.

For all its problems -- which even its biggest enthusiasts admits are serious -- the river retains an atavistic wildness. Although huge herds of buffalo no longer graze its bottoms, a rich mix of wildlife flourishes in the sparsely populated floodplain, largely unfenced in the riparian areas near the river. Deer, eagles, geese, turkey, foxes and ducks are but a few of the animals that can be seen at the site of the proposed new park, just more than a mile from downtown De Soto.

A Kaw River Park site plan, drawn up for the city by landscape architect and De Soto Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Doug Pickert, would some day add three shelters and a playground to the site.

Despite these amenities, the park will remain essentially undeveloped. The commitment of Duncan, Pickert and those who help with the final push will be a means to enjoy the river and its timeless pace of life.

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