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Local outdoorsman transforms nature into art

Years spent observing nature as a hunter and fisherman have created a keen eye in the field for longtime outdoor enthusiast, and evolving nature photographer Larry Weast.

Photography has always been a hobby, as Weast has been taking pictures most of his adult life, starting with a Voighlander 66, but has grown into a passion in recent years. Now on his fourth Canon, as well as a newer Nikon with a fixed 500 millimeter lens, Weast has delved further into the medium.

Urged on by other active photographers Dave Hoffman and Ron Boggs, Weast turned his focus to nature shots, traveling with the group to Loess Bluffs to hone their craft. Before long, the retired Hiawatha High School teacher and coach and education chair of Quail Forever, began to turn toward his own country estate for a project all his own.

The over 60-acre spread that Weast has spent more than 20 years creating, working closely with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the Kansas Forestry Service to turn into something of a homemade nature preserve. This is the backdrop for what Weast has coined the Stony Point Bird Book.

Boasting photos of over 100 different species of birds taken on his property, Weast has collected the pictures and identified photos of all sorts of native and migratory birds. He has even captured shots of a few birds that are not identified as natural travelers through the state.

There is still one shot that Larry says he would like to capture. He has a few photos of kingfishers, but he has seen one picture of the bird diving for fish, taken the moment before the predator breaks a mirror-smooth lake that he would like to emulate.

Weast most recently captured an image of an impressive male bobcat in his own backyard on his trail camera.

“I see him once in a while on the trail camera,” Weast said. “Every year I get cats on the trail cameras several times. In the late spring and summer I usually get a mama cat and kittens, usually two but once three. I was just lucky to get the picture that I did. That is what usually happens. Being in the right place at the right time with a camera ready.”

Beyond his own ambitions, just as he has with his other outdoor proclivities, Weast urges young people to try their hand at nature photography, touting it as a great activity to get them outside, and says that with phones having such amazing cameras, anyone can snap an excellent photo of the great outdoors.

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Hiawatha senior completes Eagle Scout project for elementary school

A Hiawatha senior recently completed an Eagle Scout for the Hiawatha Elementary.

Raven Stroud started her project on the Red Hawk mosaic, made from stone and cut glass, back in October. She first worked on cleaning out the flower bed near the main entrance of the Hiawatha Elementary School, which is where her mosaic would be placed.

She said the cement for the project was donated and weighs about 800 pounds.

“So that was an adventure in itself,” she said.

The various colors of glass tile were cut and inset into the cement and framed by grout.

She used funds from her fourth grade class — who raised money at the time for the flower bed and outdoor garden area where the mosaic sits — to help pay for the rest.

She worked on the mosaic over the winter and was finally able to get it set out front earlier this month after the weather warmed up.

Stroud, who has been a Scout for two years, said she wanted to do a unique project that would benefit the school.

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Commission takes final step to repeal mask mandate

After requesting a new ordinance to repeal the previous mask mandate ordinance at the previous meeting, the Hiawatha City Commission voted on Monday evening to approve Ordinance 2095, effectively ending the mask mandate as of April 12.

Prior to the vote, there was some discussion by the Commission. Commissioner Becky Shamburg said she would have liked to have seen the mandate extend through the end of the school year, and that she fears the consequences of pulling the mask order too soon. Shamburg also said, however, that she previously stated that when local medical professionals were of the opinion that it was acceptable to rescind the mandate, she would vote accordingly. Not wanting to go back on her word, Commissioner Shamburg agreed to vote to rescind the mandate. Mayor Bill Collins said that he still believes that citizens should be wearing masks, but that the time for the city to control that is over.

The ordinance passed unanimously, and will be published for two consecutive weeks before taking effect.

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Teammates offers opportunity to mentor to kids

A new program is being implemented in the Hiawatha school district that offers a chance to mentor to kids.

Kim Krauter, counselor at Hiawatha Middle School, is working with several other school officials — along with a handful of community members — to get a program called “Teammates” up and going by the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

Teammates is a mentoring program that originated in Nebraska and is all school-based, Krauter said. That means that mentors meet the students at the school for interaction — for safety purposes there are no meet-ups that are not supervised at the school during academic hours.

Krauter said now is the time to get mentors signed up in order to have the program ready by fall. She needs the mentors and from there, will know how many students can be signed up.

Currently, the program is geared toward students in 5th-8th grades as a starting point, but Krauter said there could come a time when the program could expand.

The purpose of the program is to match a student with a mentor — an adult that the student may have something in common with.

“It’s really matched by their strengths,” she said. “Mentors will come to the school and we will find places for them to get together — play games and other activities.”

The ideal time would be during SSR/lunch — which provides about an hour during the middle of the academic day, which also opens up some classrooms for such activities.

Krauter is encouraging adults in the community — age 18 and older — to contact her if they are interested in being a mentor to a middle school student. She said each adult goes through a background check, provided by the Teammates organization. While start-up costs are minimal, Krauter noted that they are obtaining some funding from Greenbush, along with local funding from USD 415 for the program.

“We don’t have a lot of costs initially, but once we get off the ground we may search for additional funding and create a budget after the first year, as we see what our costs are,” Krauter said.

Krauter hopes to have mentors in place by the time school starts in the fall and she plans an assembly day at the school to introduce the program and get kids signed up. A planned implementation day would be Sept. 9.

Other members of the Advisory Council include Principal Kylie Gatz, Special Education Director Becky Shamburg, Superintendent Lonnie Moser, along with a few community members.

Anyone interested in being a mentor with Teammates can contact Krauter at kkrauter@usd415.org or call the Hiawatha Middle School at 742-4172.

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Commission offers support for baseball complex

The Hiawatha City Commission met on Monday evening, and the group voted to sign a letter of intent to lease the ground needed for the proposed indoor baseball facility at Noble Park.

The commission was presented with a preliminary lease agreement, but agreed to move forward with the letter of intent, which states that the lease offer is contingent upon the group procuring the funds necessary to complete the project.

The indoor facility is the first of a proposed three phase project, to include a new softball field, as well as a rebuilt baseball field. The initial portion of the plan is projected to cost roughly $300,000. There was some discussion about funding, as well as the participation of the school district. One of the project organizers, Noel Boye informed the commission that the group is on the agenda for the school board meeting next week.

The commission also heard from Jay Boyles, who spoke on behalf of the Scouts. Boyles said that the last couple years have seen the group drop from 54 to 26, but hopes that getting back outside and holding more events will bolster registration. The commission approved allowing the Scouts to hold their Blue and Gold Banquet bridge ceremony and a campout at the Hiawatha City Lake on May 1. Boyles also discussed a trash pick up day at city properties.

In other business:

Also approved was a request from Erik Madsen for a burn permit, a supplemental agreement to the KDOT Special Traffic Enforcement Program, and the commission amended the previous bid award for downtown planters and the walking trail to include only the planters and initial watering for $3,649 to Wolf River Nursery.

City Administrator Mike Nichols proposed a $4,500 system upgrade to allowed continued use of effluent water on the golf course, which was approved. Nichols also presented a request and was approved to purchase 300 tons of 3-inch rock for no more than $20,000 in order to have on hand for needed and anticipated road construction solutions.

The commission approved the Consent Agenda, which included $215.83 in deposit refunds, a payment of $4,218.19 to the Morrill Public Library, and a payment to Olsson Associates in the amount of $1,604.06.