On Saturday, August 27, 2005, the Executive Committee of the Kansas Chapter voted to recognize the newly revived Topeka organization as a group under the Kansas Chapter. The organization will presently be known as the Topeka Group, but that name may change if the membership determines that a name which recognizes the geographical area which includes Sierra Club members eligible to join the group might be more appropriate. Another naming possibility is to include reference Topeka as the capital city of Kansas. The group will be consider an appropriate name along with new bylaws at future meetings and will report back to the ExCom at its November meeting the final decision on group name, and will submit bylaws for approval by the ExCom.
Topeka once had an active group, but interest waned over the years. However, Sierra Club members in the Topeka area began to think about reactivating the group in the fall of 2004. A membership “mixer” was held at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library during that month, with Chapter Chair Bill Griffith in attendance to encourage further thought and planning on the concept. Another organizational meeting was held at the home of members Paul Post and Kay Kelly in February 2005, again under the leadership of Bill Griffith. Twelve Topeka area Sierra Club members attended. They agreed to attempt restart the Topeka organization, and to hold monthly meetings on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. Interim officers were elected: Paul Post as group chair; Judy Williams as vice chair; Bill Cutler, treasurer; Jack Smith, outings chair; and JoAnn Van Meter as conservation chair.
Since February, the group has been meeting monthly and increased attendance at each meeting. In March, Charles Benjamin spoke on pending legislative issues. Ken Riead was the April speaker, and presented a program on “The Replete Home,” which focused on the construction of energy efficient houses. The May meeting was billed as “Recycling Roundup” and featured Kim Nettleton, Director of Shawnee County Recycling; Jim Tuscherer, owner of the Home Recycling Service; and Bob Smoker, a master gardener and expert on garden composting. The June program was given by Laura Calwell, Kansas Riverkeeper with Friends of the Kaw. Her topic was “The Kansas River: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly.” July’s program was presented by Mike Goodwin, president of the Kansas Trails Council, who spoke on hiking, biking, and horse trails in northeast Kansas. The speaker for August was Mike Watkins, a field biologist with the Army Corps of Engineer, who spoke on Eagles in Kansas.
The group’s first outing was on August 26, with an astronomy field trip to the Far Point Observatory near Eskridge, Kansas. Twelve members attended. The observatory is one of twenty in the world that participates in the near earth asteroid study, designed to identify and catalog asteroids that cross Earth’s orbit.
The long-term goals of the group include membership development, assistance to the Chapter on legislative issues, and continuing to provide programs of interest to Sierra Club members in the area.
Meetings continue to be held at the library on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Sierra Club members and guests are always welcome. Future speakers include Bob Gress, director of the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, whose program will be “Faces of the Great Plains” and will feature wildlife photography of animals native to the region. A December holiday dinner is also in the works. Interested members should contact Paul Post at 785 354 1972 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Paul Post, Topeka Group Chair