Team Brownsville Helps Asylum Seekers

Educators and other volunteers walk from the bus station in Brownsville, TX, across the Rio Grande to Bridge Plaza in Matamoros, Mexico.  Each pulls a wagon of food, basic necessities, and donated clothing and shoes.  What began as a modest effort to help those seeking asylum in the United States has evolved into a robust non-profit entity called Team Brownsville.

Cynthia Smith, Lawrence-area attorney, activist and volunteer, visited Brownsville in late 2019.  She described the situation to Lawrence journalists when she returned, declaring “these are human beings” and deserve our help.  

Brownsville educators initiated assistance to asylum seekers when the Department of Homeland Security changed the protocols for people seeking admission to the U.S.  These people are attempting to enter the United States legally.  They are individuals and families who are running for their lives from drug cartels and gangs.  Smith pointed out that they were peaceful, organized, industrious, and grateful for help.

Each person or family seeking asylum is interviewed.  If they are deemed to have a “credible fear,” they are referred to immigration court.  In the past, they were released into the US with papers to await their court date and could find work and live productively.  Rules in place since January 2019, however, require them to await their court date in Mexico.  Most squat in tent cities just across the border.  They have neither resources to be self-sufficient nor other types of support.    

Thanks to the on-going attention of Team Brownsville and their own contributed labor, the 1200 residents of the tent city in Matamoros now have water for washing and drinking, portable toilets, showers, and space to ward off COVID infection .  Another non-profit offers medical care.  Volunteers deliver and serve food daily.  They provide “sidewalk schools” for the children.  These basics provide invaluable dignity to those who live in this situation.

2020 Community Bike Ride Weeks 3 & 4

Ok Community Bike Ride Fans. It’s time to tell you about the trails for week three and four.

Week 3

Levee Trail

CBR Levee Trail

Description: Take your Bubble “off-road” by checking out the Levee Trail in North Lawrence. This trail runs along the Kansas River providing views of the water, wooded areas and agriculture. Although technically unpaved, the crushed gravel surface is well maintained and can support narrow road bike tires as well as larger ones. Although this is a longer route it is very level, giving youth an opportunity to up their mileage without added stressors of hills or other traffic. Bring plenty of water and watch out for the wind as the trail has little shade or wind protection. Bonus: The route outlined follows the Levee East from North 2nd street, but you can also ride to the West!

Directions: Head out the south side of the parking lot towards the river. There is a crosswalk you can use to get up to the levee. Turn left and head east away from the damn. Turn back when you get to the yellow gate (or when you start to get tired)

Parking: There is free public parking available at the corner of Locust and North 2nd street if you want to ride the whole route. Or you can park at the 8th and Oak boat ramp and ride from there if you want to shorten the total distance.

Amenities: There is a fix it stand at the corner of 2nd and Locust. A port-a-john is placed at the 8th and Oak parking lot year round.

Mileage: 9.5 Miles for the whole out and back.

Elevation: 20 Feet

Activity: Across Locust from the parking lot is the Historic Union Pacific Depot, which until recently served as the Lawrence Visitors Center. Explore the French themed garden and enjoy sculptures by Jim Brothers and Shellie Bender before or after your ride. Look for the High water markings on the Depot to see where there has been flooding in the past, and you might even get to see a train go by.

Week 4

Baker Wetlands

Description: Take your bubble on one of the newest sections of the Lawrence Loop! Running adjacent to the Baker Wetlands on the south side of Lawrence, this section of the Loop provides beautiful views of the wetlands. The few hills are steep but short. Keep an eye out for lilies blooming towards the east end and the many redwing blackbirds that call the wetlands home!

Directions: Follow the sidewalk east from the parking lot up to Michigan Street. At Michigan turn right staying on the sidewalk and turn right again jest before the overpass. Turn back when the wall ends for the mileage listed.

Parking: To ride the full distance listed you can park at the Baker Wetlands Interpretive Center off of Michigan Street. If you would like to ride a slightly shorter route you can park at Broken Arrow Park off of Louisiana Street and use the underpass to access the trail.

Amenities The Baker Wetlands Interpretive Center is currently closed due to COVID but will hopefully re-open in 2021. Broken Arrow Park has restrooms that operate from April 15th through October.  

Mileage: 3.5 Miles

Elevation: 85 feet

Prairie Park Trails

Description: Prairie Park Nature Center opened in 1999 and in addition to the building that houses various animals from around Kansas there is a trail and lake. This trail is shared with many walkers and joggers so it’s a good fit for young riders who aren’t going too fast. After going through the nature park you can ride past Prairie Park Elementary and through the neighborhood!

Directions: From the entrance to the trail turn right and follow the trail around the lake and up to the school. Ride to Kensington Road and take a left. Turn left again on 27th street, and once more on Harper (there are sidewalks the entire route).

Parking: The trailhead parking lot is at 28th and Harper. Or you can park at the Prairie Park Nature Center and ride south on Harper to get to the trail head. The distance of the loop remains the same.

Amenities: Prairie Park Nature Center is currently closed but there are activities for children outside of the center including a butterfly garden.

Mileage: 1.75 Miles

Elevation: 98 Feet

Thank you for checking out our 2020 Bike With Your Bubble Rides.

Please remember to stay distanced from other trail users and always bring a mask in case you need it.

We hope to see your smiling faces again in person in July of 2021.

2020 Community Bike Ride Information

One of Lawrence Central Rotary’s largest and most exciting projects is our annual Community Bike Ride. Every year for the past decade we have gathered at the Rotary Arboretum promoting safe cycling and healthy lifestyles.

We cherish the opportunity to give out free helmets, safety gear, and go on fun bike rides in the area. Unfortunately this year we do not feel it is safe or responsible to hold a large group gathering due to the dangers presented by COVID-19.

However, we do still feel that staying active and enjoying the outdoors is important for health and wellness. This year instead of joining us for a large event we suggest you go out with your “bubble”. Those people you live with or have chosen to maintain close contact with through this unique time.

To help you get out and enjoy the riding Lawrence has to offer we have put together some suggested routes for you to try on your own. Each week we will publish one or two new routes that you can try at any time.

Please remember to stay distanced from other trail users and always bring a mask in case you need it.

We hope to see your smiling faces again in person in July of 2021, but until then, please enjoy the Community Bike Ride 2020 Bike With Your Bubble Edition!

Week 1


The Classic CBR

Description: Just because the Community Bike Ride has to look different this year doesn’t mean the routes have to. We’re kicking off our Bike With Your Bubble ride series with the Classic CBR! This route will be familiar to those of you who’ve ridden with us in the past. Starting from the Rotary Arboretum this route follows the Lawrence Loop around the western edge of the city. There is a good mix of uphill and downhill sections and a few road crossings. We recommend this route for families with kids who feel comfortable on two wheels and are ready for a bit of a challenge. (if there are puddles on the trail, it is highly recommended that you walk through them as they can get very slick.)

Directions: Follow the trail west away from the Arboretum, after a few miles follow the hill up to the right instead of crossing the Dam Road. At the top of the hill cross Clinton Parkway and head east until the trail continues again to the left. After that follow the trail all the way until it dead ends and turn back the same way.

Parking: Parking is available at the Rotary Arboretum. If that lot is full you can also park at the Youth Sports Complex.

Amenities: A unisex restroom is available at the Arboretum year-round. There is a Fix-It Stand in the parking lot.  

Mileage: 12 Miles

Elevation: 576 feet

Arboretum Loop

Description: Does anyone in your Bubble still use training wheels? Not sure how far they’re ready to ride? The Rotary Arboretum gives you the opportunity to ride a mile loop while never being too far from the parking lot if you have to call it a day early.  The Arboretum, is a project supported by all three Rotary Clubs in Lawrence and includes three-shade/rest structures as well as two ponds with fish and frequented by Canadian geese.

Directions: Instead of joining the Lawrence Loop to the south of the parking lot go north and head either right or left when you reach the sidewalk. You can follow this loop around both fishing ponds, there is also a small detour that takes you into some tall grass before bringing you back out to the ponds.

Parking: Parking is available at the Rotary Arboretum. If that lot is full you can also park at the Youth Sports Complex.

Amenities: A unisex restrooms is available at the Arboretum year-round. There is a Fix-It Stand in the parking lot. 

Mileage: .9 miles

Elevation: 9 feet

More Rides and descriptions coming soon!

Better Care for Elderly Kansans

Mitzi McFatrich is passionate about caring for the elderly in Kansas. 

In her position as Executive Director of Kansas Advocacy for Better Care, McFatrich helps coordinate an annual legislative forum on senior issues, provides legislative progress reports and assists seniors in participating in the governmental process.

Founded in Lawrence in 1966 by six women concerned about the quality of nursing homes in the state, KABC is a statewide advocacy group that works to ensure that older adults receive safe, compassionate care at home or in an adult care facility. 

KABC addresses legislative issues related to the quality of long-term care and the elimination of elder abuse.  It provides guidance and support to elders and their families as they face the challenges of finding quality care and solving care problems. In addition, it provides education and support to constituencies who may need special training in order to deal effectively and safely with the elderly.  Among the publications on their website are a wide assortment of booklets, reports, and other materials.

McFartrich encourages everyone who shares her concern to participate in KABC’s annual fundraising  event, Stand By Me.


Kimball Outlines USD 497 Options

There are numerous big issues and countless details to address in order to deliver safe and supportive instruction in schools during the COVID pandemic.  

In mid-July, the Kansas State Department of Education endorsed “Navigating Change,” a 1100-page document that outlines guidelines for school districts as they plan for schools to resume in the fall.  For each cluster of grade levels, the report articulates ways to address Access and Equity, Competencies, Assessment, and Implementation. In addition, there are sections about Operations and Funding.  The document seeks to give guidance on how to keep students, faculty, and staff safe while providing appropriate learning support to all students. 

Shannon Kimball, president of the USC 497 School Board, outlined the “Navigating Change” document, explained the current decisions that the local school board has made, and made a few predictions about where the district is headed.

Kimball said that USD 497 has developed three options for achieving the state-required 1,116 minutes of contact time for every student:  traditional in-person instruction; remote teaching/learning; and a hybrid of these two models.  Work groups have devoted summer hours to devising these options.  There have been surveys of parents and of faculty/staff to understand their points of view. 

At their July 27 meeting, school district leaders decided to postpone the beginning of the school year to  September 8 and to provide virtual instruction only during the first six weeks of the academic year.   A local task force will coordinate and communicate as conditions evolve in the community.

Kimball assumes there will be a re-set by the end of September, but there will be no easy decisions.   


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