Water, shade, food, AND inspiration on the Burroughs Creek Trail (Lawrence Loop)!

From Suzan Hampton

New additions at Burroughs Creek Park on 15th Street are worth a stop next time you’re heading out on the Burroughs Creek Trail (Lawrence Loop).

A partnership of community, government, higher ed, nonprofit, and local businesses launched Prairie Block at Burroughs Creek Park on June 1, National Trails Day/National Prairie Day. Prairie Block features the Kaw Pavilion, a shade structure made of recycled telephone poles and street signs, natural-surface trails for nature exploration along the creek, and carved limestone boulders depicting prairie plants and creek critters. The Lawrence Fruit Tree Project planted thirty new fruit trees at the park to attract pollinators and provide free fruit for all takers, and the new restrooms and exercise equipment recently installed at the park by the Lawrence Parks and Rec were also celebrated.

Phase 2 of the project is being spearheaded by Friends of the Kaw and Grassland Heritage Foundation. This effort is building momentum now and will demonstrate how prairie restorations along trails like the Lawrence Loop and in our public parks create green stormwater infrastructure to protect the Kaw Valley Watershed, reduce flooding, provide wildlife and pollinator habitat, and combat the effects of climate change.

The Kaw Pavilion, carved limestone art, and site design were undertaken as a design/build studio by third-year KU School of Architecture students led by designer and FLAT boardmember Suzan Hampton and Assistant Professor Keith Van de Riet, with guidance by the East Lawrence, Brook Creek, and Barker neighborhoods. Local stone sculptor Karl Ramberg mentored the students in traditional stonecarving on boulders supplied by R.D. Johnson Excavating, and Eric Jay and Matt Jones of Struct/Restruct acted as contractor-of-record. Celeste Spickert of McClure Engineering was the project’s structural engineer. All materials, labor, and consulting services were donated.

The design is inspired by the indigenous structures of the Kansa (Kaw) tribe, the first inhabitants of this region. The Kaw built two kinds of dwellings: wooden lodges used for half the year while growing crops, and teepees used during buffalo-hunting season. The structure incorporates ideas from both these archetypes.

Westar’s Green Team donated, planed, and set the giant utility poles that support a covering of colorful “shingles” fabricated of used street signs with help from Hicks Classic Concrete. Secured in place with hardware provided by Cottin’s Hardware, these shingles work in conjunction with custom canvas awnings donated by Kansas City Tent & Awning and track the pattern of the sun’s movement to create shade.

The shingles are attached to long spans of recycled metal referencing the train tracks that ran next to the site where the Burroughs Creek Trail (Lawrence Loop) is located today, while the street sign shingles create a connection with the more recent past and our automobile-driven culture.

In this way, the Kaw Pavilion pulls together three eras of our shared cultural history. Combined with how the structure frames views of the sky and its eastern orientation toward the sunrise and the creek, the pavilion is designed to nurture a deep connection with “place” and with what was here all along: the Kaw Valley Watershed.

The Kaw Pavilion can be rented for classes and events by visiting the Parks and Rec’s website at https://lawrenceks.org/lprd/recreationfacilities/shelters/.



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