Nature Trail - Background
The nature trail project began in 1988 reestablishing 18 species of prairie grasses and native flowers that once abounded on this 80-acre section of land in western Topeka. These initial efforts were funded by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks through a Chickadee Checkoff fund grant.
The project continued through the support of the Westar Energy Green Team, an employee-led group devoted to environmental projects. The team was actively involved with the Kansas Historical Society in completing the trail. The team planted trees, built bridges, constructed fences, and provided fly-ash for the trail. Several Boy Scouts and their leaders also were actively involved in the trail and habitat restoration effort.
The Trail is designed as an interpretive walkway, six to eight feet wide, approximately 2.5 miles long. It provides a self-guided trail that can accommodate guided tours for groups.
A quarter-mile loop is surfaced to allow access to wheelchairs and strollers. The remainder of the trail is surfaced with wood chips.
Visitors begin at the trail head, immediately east of the Kansas Historical Society parking lot. The trail head is a small sheltered kiosk with trail signs and information.
Shortly after leaving the trail head, visitors can choose to travel in an easterly or westerly direction. The tall grass prairie composed of numerous grasses and flowers provides a sense of open space. The prairie grasses and flowers present different images throughout the four seasons.
At the margins of the grasslands, visitors will find an aquatic community along two separate creeks that converge on the site. They will encounter a special ecosystem inhabited by wildlife, birds, and aquatic organisms. This natural community allows visitors to learn about the area geology, soil genesis, and soil conservation.
From the grasslands, visitors enter the woodland areas, which exhibit a wide variety of both deciduous and coniferous species of trees. An extension of the woodland focuses upon a small portion of slope and upland. This separate but related community allows visitors to observe the nuances and subtleties evident in the different forms of vegetation in the woodlands. Within the various communities there exists insect life that, while often overlooked, add immensely to the perpetuation of the ecosystem.
Five bridges connect the trail sections. One of these, the Wea Creek bridge, located on the southwest portion of the trail, is of historic importance. The other bridges were constructed for this site and include a rope bridge.
In addition to the natural environment, the built environment is also represented by the Potawatomi Mission, the Stach School, the Wea Creek bridge, and other elements such as fences and agricultural development. Visitors can relate the built environment to the natural environment, thus creating a special interpretive mosaic.