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Advocates’ event to encourage Lawrence community to push back against South Wakarusa Extension

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Indigenous community advocates on Thursday will discuss potential harm that could come from the proposed roadway extension of Wakarusa Drive just south of Lawrence, and they invite the public to participate.

Attendees will learn more about the proposed Wakarusa Extension and will be encouraged to ask questions and participate in discussion, according to a news release via community activist and organizer Alex Kimball Williams. They will also be able to view a gallery of student research, photos and related materials that contribute to wetlands advocacy.

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Douglas County has been pushing for the City of Lawrence to agree to pay for the South Wakarusa Extension, according to the release.

Lawrence City Commissioner (now Mayor) Lisa Larsen said during a meeting in August that the road is “not even in city limits, and I just don’t think it’s appropriate for the city to be building roads for the county … We need to stay in our lane, and we don’t pay for county roads.”

Over the course of multiple city commission meetings over the past several months, advocates have raised numerous concerns about the plans and potential environmental impacts.

“The road would go through prime farmland and a riparian corridor, likely polluting downstream areas of the Wakarusa Valley,” the release stated. “We want to support our City Commission in saying no to the South Wakarusa Extension.”

Speakers scheduled to share about their work in the Wakarusa Wetlands, the impacts of road building and why the extension could be harmful for the community include Kimball Williams; author and Haskell Indian Nations University professor Daniel Wildcat; and Haskell environmental science professor Bridgett Chapin, according to the news release.

View from original 31st street before South Lawrence Trafficway construction. (2014 photo by Alex Kimball Williams)

Jason Champagne, of The Native Chef LLC, will provide refreshments for those in attendance, according to the release. Toward the end of the event, there will be a raffle drawing held. 

The community event is scheduled for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 at Haskell Indian Nations University’s Tommaney Library, 2450 Creek Avenue. The news release noted Tommaney Library is an accessible building with restrooms.

In addition to in-person attendance, virtual attendance via Zoom will be an option. Register to receive the Zoom information at this link.

After this educational event, organizers ask community members to join together and share their personal thoughts about the extension during public commentary at the upcoming Lawrence City Commission meeting.

The Wakarusa extension is slated to be on the meeting agenda for Tuesday, Feb. 7, though the full and final meeting agenda will not be posted until Thursday afternoon (Feb. 2). The meeting starts at 5:45 p.m. in the City Commission Room on the first floor of City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St. 

— Reporters Maya Hodison and Mackenzie Clark contributed to this post.

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