A local bike advocacy group called Prairie Travelers recently got a grant to expand an 8-mile section of abandoned railroad corridor into the Prairie Sunset Trail, a mixed-use bike and walking lane. The volunteers are getting help from a group of Americorps Volunteers based in Denver, Colorado.
We interviewed John Moore with the Prairie Travelers, Cecelia Montes De Oca, the leader of the Americorps team, and then the volunteers themselves.
First, John Moore, with the Prairie Travelers and the group AARTI, the Andover-Augusta Rail-Trail Initiative.
John: I’m John Moore, and been doing this trail since 2002, when my wife finally got the deed over in Garden Plain…we’re going to help them more forward.
“I’m the guy that does stuff. My wife would come home and say, ‘We’re going to build concrete on a bridge or build a handrail or clear trees or whatever.’ That’s basically what I do.”
“It’s an abandoned railroad. What we have is from Garden Plain to Hoover, which is almost up against the Big Ditch. It’s a crushed limestone surface, so it’ll be suitable for biking, walking, running, hiking, no motor vehicles. We leave a lot of the habitat so there’s--wildlife to see. Yesterday, we saw a fox and six turkeys. So that’s our goal, it’s a good place to get out and even though they live in the city, they can step out and feel like they live in the country. It just releases stress. It’s a stress reliever. A long one.”
“The railroad… wanted to turn it over to somebody because they wasn’t going to use it anymore. And the railbanking… in the future they could still use it in the future. The corridor is still in place, so in the future, they can build a railroad on it.”
“My name is Cecelia Montes De Oca. I’m the team leader of Sun 2, an Americorp NCCC team based in Denver, Colorado. We are here in Wichita working with Prairie Travelers and ARTI in a trail maintenance project.”
“So we start our training, and then we assemble with your teams, and you deploy with your team from anywhere from 6 weeks to 13 weeks at a time…so for Sun 2, I’ve had most of my team, since November, we’ve been to Houston, Texas, Little Rock, Arkansas, St. Louis, Missouri, and now we’re here in Wichita for our last project.”
“John sets us up on the worksite, and then with that, other volunteers with the Prairie Travelers community come out to work alongside us. It’s nice because they already have a really good idea of what they want the site to look like.”
“They are also good at introducing us to thing in the community. Just last week, we went to the Eagle Valley Raptor Center. We got to work with hawks and hold baby owls. We don’t to just go there to do the work and go home. Do the work and go home. We want to learn about why we’re there. And being able to network with those volunteers on those trails is like, wow. These are the people who are going to be using the trails. They’re already biking on the trails to come visit us.”
“It really means a lot. We’ve had volunteers bring over birthday cakes just because they heard it was someone’s birthday.
“Most (of us) haven’t been here before… A big positive about our time so far, is our housing. It’s really accessible to get places.
“The volunteers at Prairie Travelers and Bike Walk Wichita have donated bikes and helmets…So essentially, every member of our team has our own bike an helmet. That makes it so much easier to get around… just like John was saying. It’s that stress relief. I could just easily access a bike trail and ride all the way into downtown. Which does a lot; it helps us explore on our own time and learn from the community that we’re in.”
Her team joined her at KMUW: Heather Doyle, Eric Douglas, Dylan Scoles, Kyle Lakind, Alex Gutierrez, Claire Mrozek, Terrance Dewberry, and Jordan Taylor.
Here’s a link to the regional page: https://www.facebook.com/AmeriCorpsNCCCSouthwest
Links to all the KS trails and maps: http://www.prairietravelers.org/trails.php
Super-awesome Prairie Sunset Trail PDF: http://www.prairietravelers.org/ptmap.pdf