Topeka Magazine Spring 2009

Page 72

70 GROW Snyder Prairie

Snyder Prairie A rare tract of restored and virgin prairie land provides Topekans the sights, sounds and wonders of authentic Kansas landscape


ach spring a profusion of pale purple coneflowers, butterfly milkweed and blazing stars burst forth on the 140 acres of Snyder Prairie. Amid the prairie’s flowers and 6-foot-tall native grasses, red-tail hawks, bobcats and deer scavenge for food or quench their thirst at a tributary running through the property just three miles east of Mayetta. ...................................................................................... Snyder Prairie is perhaps the “Some people don’t largest tract of native landscape in the Topeka region. Owned and preserved by the nonprofit Grassland Heritage Foundation, the prairie is made availand able to anyone who wishes to connect purpose until they to a more natural time when bird calls and rushing wind, instead of iTunes, provided the day’s soundtrack. and really see Since 1998, foundation member its Frank Norman has led monthly expeditions to the site where volunteers collect and spread seeds, cut out inva– Frank Norman sive woody plants like red cedar trees or sumac and burn grasses to help the natural prairie plants flourish. “I’ve always been intrigued by the evolution of plants on the prairie and how they have acclimated to tough conditions,” says Norman, who has a master’s degree in botany from the

appreciate the prairie’s beauty

University of Kansas. “Many of these plants have deep roots to withstand severe heat and drought, and they are all beautiful.” A native of Pennsylvania, Norman took a circuitous path to Kansas where he was first drawn to the prairie’s diversity during long walks he took while living in rural Russell County in the late 1970s. “The prairie is our signature community in this state, and in appreciating the prairie you also have to appreciate the fortitude of the pioneers who probably weren’t very attuned to

walk through one splendor up close.”



Grassland Heritage Foundation board member Jeff Hansen walks at the front of a group during a spring tour of Snyder Prairie.

story by Kim Gronniger | photography by Jason Dailey