Public still not responding to rules, Konza Prairie looking at closure possibility

K-State students and Manhattan residents walk and run on the nature trail at the Konza Prairie on April 10, 2016. (Emily Lenk | The Collegian)

Last week, there was news that the Konza Prairie Biological Center may be closing because the public is not responding to the rules set to protect the prairie.

John Briggs, director of the Konza Biological Station, said nothing has changed since word got out that the rules are not being followed, and this could have strong consequences for the public.

Briggs said that people were bringing dogs to the prairie, leaving trash behind and not staying on the trails.

“It seems like we are still having problems, unfortunately, particularly on the weekends,” Briggs said.

That is not stopping him from doing everything in his power to try and keep the Konza Prairie open to the public, he said.

“Some of our volunteer adults are going out there more, so we are getting more of a presence,” Briggs said. “I know K-State police have been out there a little bit more, so we are getting a bit of a reduction.”

Right now, Briggs said he is not sure if they have enough data to decide if there is enough of a reduction to keep the Konza Prairie open to the public. There may be more of a reduction in rule breaking, but he said people now feel the need to tell him of the wrongdoings that are happening.

“The last thing we want to do is shut (Konza Prairie) down, but we have to protect the research that is going there,” Briggs said. “If we do shut it down, we will probably do it on the weekends first, which would be really sad and everything, but we are still evaluating it.”

The threat of the closure sent some people running to the hills with the fear that this could be their last chance to hike them.

Mackenzie Thrush, sophomore in communication sciences and disorders, said she was one of those people. Thrush, a first-time Konza Prairie hiker, said she was upset when she found out the Konza Prairie could possibly be closing and wanted to make sure she got to see it at least once.

“I feel like the closing of the Konza Prairie would be not very good for the campus students because a lot of people go there,” Thrush said. “It’s been a good source of exercise and just allows the students to go out there and enjoy the nature.”

Thrush said while she was visiting the prairie, she did not see anyone breaking the rules. She said there were a few people who were a couple steps off of the gravel path, but not far enough that it would have done any damage.

Jessica Reno, sophomore in secondary education, said she was saddened by the news of the Konza Prairie’s possible closure. She said she loves hiking, and there is not really anywhere else for her to successfully hike nearby.

“I find the wilderness therapeutic for the stress that I feel from everyday life and classes,” Reno said. “I can understand, though, why they would feel the need to close down the Konza. They opened it for public use, but some people are just treating it poorly.”

If the prairie does end up closing, it will be closed for a long time, Briggs said. He is being very conservative about its closure because he does not wish to close it in the first place, and he does not want to go back and forth on whether or not it should be kept closed.

“Right now we are still trying to keep it open,” Briggs said. “Hopefully people start policing themselves or their friends and colleagues, or even strangers, if they feel inclined to do so.”