Posted Date: 11/07/2019
The fourth graders asked a lot of questions once the “lunch wagon” they were riding on left the visible area of the former Safari Golf Course. The manicured fairways are gone and grasses have grown tall at the Lakeview Wildlife Site where the public can enjoy walking trails, a playground for children and a Frisbee golf course. The area furthest from the road has been reseeded with grasses native to Kansas and that is where Bill Myers, Recreation and Parks employee who oversees the site, took Angie Wright’s Chanute Elementary fourth graders.
“This is the way Kansas looked years ago,” Myers said from his perch on a tractor that pulled the wagon of students. “Back when there were covered wagons going through Kansas, can you imagine, (driving through these) very, very tall grasses,” that could grow taller than the top of the wagon.
Plucking a stalk of Blue Stem next to the path, Myers told them it was the predominant grass across the prairies in the United States.
“This stuff up here (at the top of the stalk) is seed. It drops to the ground and the grass comes back and grows again next year,” he said. As the students passed the grass around, he pointed out another grass with a feathery top that is called Foxtail.
The students didn’t know why people burn off the grasses every year.
“Fires help keep out all the trees,” Myers said. A “controlled burn in the spring will burn all the weeds (and thistles) so the good grasses can grow.”
As he stepped along the trailer, Myers pointed out all the grasshoppers jumping out of his path and into the tall grass.
“There are hundreds of thousands of grasshoppers and different kinds of wildlife that love this type of area because they can hide in it,” he said.
They talked about habitats, and Myers pointed out two types of habitats they’ve created, one for water fowl and another for quail.
He pointed out the cattails at the edge of a lake where different types of ducks and geese can thrive and said, “they like it back here, where it is shallow and marshy.”
The Lakeview Wildlife Site at Safari Park has been designated an (OWLS) Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site by the Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Exposing students to native wildlife and plant communities and encouraging an appreciation for wildlife and their environments is the goal behind creating OWLS around schools and in communities.
Myers encouraged the students to come back to the OWLS area with their families, to observe different kinds of birds and watch how squirrels eat.
“Make it a point to get out in nature and look around,” he said.