• Last modified 805 days ago (July 23, 2020)


Project's founders make big plans for small town

Staff writer

A pandemic may have postponed its debut, but Flint Hills Counterpoint’s founders are using the time to build their dream.

Susan Mayo has big plans for 14 acres north of Peabody even if she is disappointed by the forced cancellation of a lineup of summer events.

“I am frustrated,” she said. “I was getting this ready to take off, but we just can’t — not in good conscience. We will look for ways to do this safely in the fall.”

Flint Hills Counterpoint is an arts and ecology project that restores and celebrates tallgrass prairie.

Rural Peabody cellist and composer Susan Mayo teamed with filmmaker Cyan Meeks when they met as artists in residence in Matfield Green and were moved by each other’s work.

Meeks will direct a documentary about returning Mayo’s land to a native ecosystem, and Mayo will write a score for the film.

“We want to promote land stewardship in Marion County and the Flint Hills — and we want people to see what we have here,” she said. “We wanted to do that through film and arts intervention programs.”

The two were able to track down resources and get the ball rolling:

  • The Natural Resources Conservation Service and Kansas Forest Service are guiding the land’s restoration. They will pay for percent of the cost.
  • A $50,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment of the Arts will support arts programming in partnership with Marion, Hillsboro and Peabody. Flint Hills Counterpoint was one of 51 projects that received funding.
  • The Kansas Creative Arts and Industry Commission provided money for the first phase of the project and recently gave nearly $10,000 to transform “a space into an art space.”

Two years of prairie bus, walking and bike tours of its prairie along with music and dance performances with guest artists are planned when it finally is safe to fully open.

“Life is in flux because of COVID-19,” she said.

In the meantime, work to restore the land continues.

Non-native trees have been cut down, and the space replanted with more than 300 persimmons and paw paws — species that feed wildlife. An overgrown cluster of cedars was cleared to give an ancient grove of walnuts room to thrive.

“It’s a three-prong thing,” she said. “We are clearing out the windbreaks, pulling up the trees that shouldn’t be there, and cleaning up the deadwood.”

Native grasses and wildflowers will be planted on another six acres.

Goats donated by a local vet are taking care of a pricklier problem.

“We have a lot of poison ivy,” she said. “So we are trying out the goats. They are a fun part of this whole project — and they love poison ivy. Be careful about petting them.”

Mayo will meet with backers of Flint Hills Centerpoint in the fall and decide how to make use of the space she has transformed.

“Whenever it’s safe, we are going to get going with a lot of things and make them available,” she said. “It’s a way to have Marion County sparkle.”

Last modified July 23, 2020