Kansas adds a new state park

Leah Jamison , Indigo Magazine Editor in Chief

Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park is the latest addition to Kansas’ state park system, opened to the public on Oct. 12, 2019. Little Jerusalem is now one of 28 state parks in Kansas.

The land that now makes up the park belonged to the McGuire family for five generations. When Jim and Carol McGuire inherited the land in 2015, they received many offers from private buyers. However, they decided to preserve the ancient formations and open it to the public instead.

The property is now owned by the Nature Conservancy, who partnered with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to protect the land.

According to ksoutdoors.com, the official website of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, “Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park showcases a mile-long stretch of 100-foot-tall spires and cliffs of eroded Niobrara Chalk.”

The park got its name from the chalk formations’ resemblance to the ancient city walls of Jerusalem. Geologists believe that this chalk was deposited from a huge inland sea in Western Kansas about 80 million years ago.

According to nature.org, the official website of the Nature Conservancy, “These badlands are Kansas’ most dramatic Niobrara chalk formation. They provide a unique and important habitat for many plants and wildlife. Native amphibians, reptiles and birds such as ferruginous hawks and cliff swallows live here. Little Jerusalem is also home to the largest population of Great Plains wild buckwheat.”

Bats, hawks, snakes, and lizards are just some of the species that inhabit the badlands. In addition to these modern-day creatures, ancient fossils are hidden in the chalk formations.

“When a state or national park is declared, there are certain limits on human activities that can occur there in order to conserve the ecosystem. Humans can have a dramatic negative effect on the biodiversity of different kinds of plants and animals that live in an area. By having a kind of law framework, it can reduce the negative impacts,” said Kellis Bayless, senior lecturer in the department of Biology at Washburn.

The nature conservancy’s primary goal is to preserve the beauty and history of the land. Their second focus is to give people the opportunity to experience the unique landscape.

“I think conservation is important. Sometimes it seems we don’t do as much as we could do,” said Max Morrow, a sophomore film and video student.

Since conservation is the main goal for Little Jerusalem, human interaction will be limited. Visitors are restricted to the public trails that have been designed in order to protect the fragile rocks and unique ecosystem.

Directors of KDWPT and the Nature Conservancy are placing natural resource conservation as the highest priority.

The park is open every day year-round, from sunrise to sunset. While admission to the park is free, visitors must pay a daily vehicle fee of $5.

Edited by Jason Morrison, Adam White, Jackson Woods, Jessica Galvin