Around 1,000 Area Fourth Graders to Converge on Garfield Park for Water Education

Topeka, KS- Around 1,000 area fourth graders, their teachers and parents and more than 100 volunteers are registered to attend the 20th Annual Make A Splash Topeka Water Festival at Garfield Park and Community Center Thursday, Sept. 12. This event runs from 9:30 a.m. until 2:05 p.m.
The festival, “Make a Splash Topeka Water Festival,” is part of a program in which festivals are scheduled annually in hundreds of locations around Kansas, the United States and internationally.
Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) is an international, interdisciplinary, water science education program for formal and non-formal educators of K-12 students. The activities are correlated to the state standards and support what students are learning in school. The Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE), in partnership with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, sponsor Project WET in Kansas.
“Water touches nearly every aspect of our lives. We use water to drink, brush our teeth, wash, cook, clean, grow food, produce energy and more. We depend on water not only to live, but for nearly everything we do. That makes conserving and preserving this vital natural resource essential,” said Laura Downey, KACEE Executive Director. “We designed this event for fourth graders, because water is a topic that is often covered by teachers at this grade and this event supports students’ understandings of this amazing resource. Through the hard work of our many volunteers, the 1,000 fourth graders will participate in hands-on education activity stations and learn about a variety of water topics. Stations will teach students about how water gets from the river to their taps, how we can save water, how we can make sure water is clean and healthy for living things and even how to be safe when recreating on the water, to name just a few. By the end of this fun day, students have a better understanding of how important water is to our lives and what they can do to be good stewards of this shared resource.”
The event is offered free of charge to those who register in advance. Many classes are provided financial assistance with transportation costs.
Sponsors of the Topeka Water Festival include the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE); City of Topeka Utilities Department; Shawnee County Conservation District; Shawnee County Farm Bureau; Upper Wakarusa WRAPS, Middle Kansas WRAPS and Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams; Evergy Green Team; Goodyear Tire & Rubber; Jackson County Conservation District; Pottawatomie County Conservation District; Scott Holloman, CPA, LLC; Franklin County Conservation District; Topeka Audubon Society. Supporters include Arab Shrine Provost Guard Unit; Garfield Community Center and Park; Shawnee County Parks and Recreation; Kansas Department of Health & Environment/Bureau of Water, Watershed Mgt. Section; Kansas Water Office.
For information on KACEE programs, individuals may contact Laura Downey, KACEE Executive Director, at 785-532-3322. For more information about the water festival, contact Molly Hadfield at 785-368-0991 or Laura Downey at 785-532-3322.

Clean Slate Day

Clean Slate Day will take place on Friday, September 20th from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Topeka Municipal Court. Clean Slate Day is an opportunity for a fresh start for people with Topeka Municipal Court offenses. This allows them to begin payment plans for outstanding fines and fees, setting new court dates for outstanding warrants and getting old violations expunged all without the fear of arrest.
The Topeka Community Foundation has provided a $5,000 grant to help those who income qualify to pay their outstanding fees and fines. The funds are available on a first come first serve basis.
“Clean Slate Day was a success last year and I’m excited to continue the program and see it grow,” said Municipal Court Judge Lori Dougherty-Bichsel. “This is a chance to obtain a driver’s license after being suspended for years. This could be someone’s chance to have a case expunged which has kept them from pursuing an employment opportunity in our community. We have the ability to help our community members and I am grateful for all our partners that help make this day possible through donations of time, resources, and money.”
Several other services will also be provided during Clean Slate Day including, free legal advice, employment opportunities, options for drivers’ licenses, housing, financial, education, city services, food resources and other social service needs.
Participants in Clean Slate Day need to bring a driver’s license or government issued photo I.D., information about Topeka Municipal Court offenses, proof of household income and a social security card.

Repairs at Topeka Performing Arts Center

Topeka, KS- Mechanical issues in the lower level function rooms of Topeka Performing Arts Center caused an unforeseen circumstance and rendered the spaces temporarily unavailable.
The City of Topeka is addressing the issue and have hired a contractor to mitigate, repair and replace equipment and fixtures as needed. In an abundance of caution, the City and TPAC are working to relocate previously scheduled events from downstairs to alternate dates or to the unaffected upstairs Performance Hall and Meeting Rooms. Clearing the affected rooms will allow the contractor to work unencumbered and to resolve the issues in a timely and efficient manner.
As a result of the work in the lower level of TPAC, Grape Escape, the annual primary fundraiser for TPAC, has been postponed from its originally scheduled date of September 14. An alternate date will be announced soon.
Existing ticket holders for September 14 will be honored for the new date. For any questions, please contact Topeka Performing Arts Center at 785-234-2787 ext. 101

Mayor De La Isla Chosen for Vice-Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Youth Involvement Task Force

Mayor De La Isla has announced that she has accepted the Vice-Chair position for the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Youth Involvement Task Force.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Youth Involvement Task Force is dedicated to helping our nation’s Mayors provide and expand programming that helps young people (middle school through college) engage in civics, leadership development, internship programs, voter registration, community outreach, and more.

“I am excited for the opportunity to work alongside Committee Chair Mayor Shane Bemis from (Gresham OR), under the leadership of President of the US Conference of Mayors- Mayor Bryan Barnett (Rochester Hills, MI) as we engage our young citizens. The exciting thing of this Youth Task force is that it aims at listening to our youth and harnessing their energy and experiences to shape policy, increase youth voter engagement and increase the number of youth councils across the nation”, said Mayor De La Isla.

“Mayor De La Isla has been a national leader on empowering the youth of our nation. She has been a passionate and outspoken advocate for including the youth voice and perspective in every critical conversation in our communities. I’m pleased to appoint her to this national leadership role and look forward to her contribution”, said by Mayor Bryan Barnett of Rochester Hills, Michigan.

“Mayor De La Isla’s intellect, ingenuity, and inclusivity make her uniquely qualified to take on the role as the first-ever Vice-Chair of the US Conference of Mayors Youth Involvement Task Force. Her passion for America’s youth, coupled with her fierce tenacity to solve the issues facing our country make her the perfect fit for this committee in these times. I am honored to serve with her, and as a conference, we have been enriched by her critical insight and inimitable perspective”, said by Mayor Shane Bemis of Gresham, Oregon.

Fulfilling a Last Wish of Gary K. Clarke – Free Day at the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center

Topeka, KS- On Friday, August 30, 2019, the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center will observe one of the last wishes of its Director Emeritus Gary K. Clarke by opening the zoo for free to the Northeast Kansas community. The wish penned by Gary reads as follows:

“I DO NOT, however, wish to have a public memorial service of any type.  If anything, I would prefer a CELEBRATION OF LIFE symbolized by a Free Day at the Topeka Zoological Park with – and this is important – NO speeches, NO tributes, NO eulogy of any kind!  This is to be an enjoyable day for families (especially children) at Topeka’s living treasure.”

“This Friday marks the first anniversary of the grand opening of Camp Cowabunga here at the zoo,” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley.  “It’s the perfect day to grant Gary’s wish.” Camp Cowabunga is a safari themed animal exhibit at the Topeka Zoo. “It’s almost an autobiographical story of Gary’s professional life.”

The entire zoo will be open Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Admission will be free for all.  A seven minute documentary video will be playing throughout the day in Gary’s Tent at Camp Cowabunga.  The video can also be found at . The video describes Gary’s professional careers of a zoo director and safari leader and how those two careers intersected resulting in the Camp Cowabunga experience.

Impact Avenues

It is currently estimated that there are between 750 to 1,000 homeless students in Topeka and Shawnee County schools. Impact Avenues is a new program that has been created to assist students and their families with obtaining stable housing. The City of Topeka and our numerous partners are working together to provide wrap around services for our student population to help significantly reduce homelessness in our community.

Over the next three years, Advisors Excel will be providing up to $500,000 to support the Impact Avenues program. The Topeka Community Foundation will administer the Impact Avenues funding on behalf of Advisors Excel through an existing partnership with the Topeka Community Foundation to support their charitable work in the Topeka community.
“No child should have to worry about where they are sleeping at night,” said Advisors Excel Co-Founder David Callanan. “Studies show social and emotional development is threatened and a child’s ability to concentrate is impacted without the stability and support a permanent home provides. When the opportunity to get involved in the Impact Avenues program presented itself, we felt strongly that we had to help tackle the issue of student homelessness in Topeka.”

About Impact Avenues:
Impact Avenues is a program that aims to significantly reduce student homelessness in our community by assisting students and their families obtain stable housing through graduation. “Topeka has stepped up to the plate to ensure that no student has to endure the burden and stigma that is associated with homelessness. I am proud to support this initiative and our partners who have made this possible. No issue is too big to solve when we do it together,” said Mayor De La Isla.
Families will be assigned to an Impact Avenues navigator who will assist them throughout their journey with the program. The navigator position is currently open for applications and can be found at: 

How it started:
Impact Avenues is based on a program in Wyandotte County called Impact KCK, which was successful in reducing student homelessness by 50 percent in just a few years using collective impact – a model that removes barriers in order to accomplish goals, reduces duplication of efforts in the community, and collects data to measure success.

How to Qualify for Impact Avenues:
A student is considered homeless if they lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (i.e. living in cars, parks, public spaces, house sharing, couch surfing, living in motels or campgrounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations, living in emergency shelters, etc.). In order to qualify for Impact Avenues, a student has to be referred through a USD 501 liaison. Children and their families will get the support they need to obtain stable housing and assistance with overcoming barriers to success like transportation, employment, financial literacy, healthcare and others.
“Through Impact Avenues, together we will remove barriers for all families. Our partnership is another example of how the school district and city of Topeka are partnering to contribute to the economic prosperity of all families by addressing the homeless rate in the city. We are committed to the success of every child and we are grateful for all who helped make this partnership possible which will reduce poverty by eliminating homelessness in Topeka,” said USD 501 Superintendant Dr. Anderson.

Our Partners:
This program would not be possible without numerous community partners that have dedicated time, resources and input throughout this process. “The collaboration between local non-profits, private sector and multiple government agencies is truly impressive. This is a perfect example of the great momentum we see in our community,” Callanan said. The City of Topeka will serve as the Backbone Agency. In addition to Advisors Excel, partners include USD 501, the Kansas Department of Children and Families, Topeka Rescue Mission, Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc., Valeo and many more agencies that have pledged to engage in this work to improve the quality of life for our students and Topekans.

How to help:
For more information, please go to
If your organization is willing to assist us in this crucial effort, please contact Impact Avenues program lead, Corrie Wright at
To contribute to ongoing expenses for the program, you can donate online at and select the “Impact Avenues Fund”, or send a check directly to the Topeka Community Foundation with “Impact Avenues Fund” in the memo line.

T-21 Ordinance

On June 28, 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld the validity of Topeka’s “T-21” Ordinance No. 20099 which prohibits the sale of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, tobacco products, and liquid nicotine to anyone under the age of 21. The ordinance also prohibits buying any of those products for a person under the age of 21. View the ordinance online.

The Kansas Supreme Court issued its mandate on 7/26/2019, which means that the ordinance is now enforceable.
For retailers, the Kansas Department of Revenue has designed a sign that complies with state law and can be used in cities that have passed T-21 ordinances.

Download the sign.

Two of the Topeka Zoo Animal Family Experiencing Their Twilight

All pet owners know that eventually young pets grow old. When you work at a zoo or visit a zoo often, you realize that the same holds true for zoo animals. Knowing the truth doesn’t necessarily make it easier as keepers and guests realize that a beloved animal’s time is near.

Two of the most popular exhibits at the Topeka and Zoo and Conservation Center are homes to two of the Zoo’s oldest animals. Cora, an Asian elephant cow, is 61 years old. Avus, a male African lion, is almost 15. Age is relevant to individual species.

During a routine medical exam in February of 2018, a mass in Cora’s reproductive tract was identified. The mass was determined to be non-operable at the time due to Cora’s status as a geriatric elephant and the complexities with both a surgical procedure and recovery. As the mass was putting pressure on Cora’s rectum, her care team began supporting her gastro-intestinal tract to alleviate potential discomfort the mass was causing.

A few days ago, Cora’s keepers noted that she was more lethargic than normal. That her appetite was tapering off and she was experiencing more and more discomfort. Blood results from a sample taken yesterday show that her condition is worsening. One blood index has more than doubled in the last six months and is five times as high as it should be. “The bloodwork tells us that there is tissue destruction going on in her body, possibly cardiac failure,” said Zoo Director Brendan Wiley.

A few weeks ago, Avus the lion was noted to be “wobbly” on his feet. For the past few years, Avus has received treatment for arthritis. The unsteady cat had Zoo staff wondering if the arthritis had progressed or was there potentially a new neurological issue he was dealing with. A CT scan last week revealed that Avus is now dealing with degenerative disc disease at multiple points along the spine from his neck to his lower back. “For both Avus and Cora our efforts right now focus on making sure they are comfortable,” said Wiley. “They are both loved members of our family here.”

Both Avus and Cora have storied pasts. Cora came to the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center from a private owner in Florida who could no longer care for her. She had spent most of her life travelling up and down the east coast participating in education programs. Under the stage name Charlotte, she co-starred alongside Bert Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit 2 as the secret cargo being transported across the country. Cora retired to the Topeka Zoo in 2016. Avus is always described as one of the most “chill” lions you will ever meet. He will do just about anything for meat flavored baby food. If you live within a mile of the Zoo, he has serenaded you throughout the night.

Fireworks in Topeka 2019: What You Need to Know

When Can I Set Off Fireworks in Topeka This Year?

It is illegal to use fireworks within the city limits except for the following dates and times:

  • July 3rd, 10 am to 11 pm
  • July 4th, 10 am to 11:59 pm

Violations are misdemeanors with a mandatory minimum fine of $250 which shall not be paroled. Violations may be punished up to a fine of $499 and/or 179 days in jail.

If you would like to report a fireworks violation please call 785-368-9551 or 911. Enhance the joy of this holiday period by practicing Safe Sane and Sober fireworks life-safety habits. For more information regarding the rules and regulations on fireworks, consult Municipal Code 8.35.070.

Safety Tips

  • Keep a source of water or a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • A person under the age of 18 must be under adult supervision to discharge fireworks.
  • Ignite fireworks on a pave surface if possible. If not, select a dirt area with no grass present.
  • Never park your vehicle on dry grass or close to fireworks being discharged.
  • Never attempt to relight a “dud” firework. Wait 10-20 minutes, and then soak it in water.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Appoint a responsible person to be your designated igniter.
  • Wet down ignition and fall out areas before lighting any fireworks to minimize the chance of fire.
  • Never ignite or discharge fireworks into, under, or from a vehicle.
  • Be aware of wind conditions. If it is too windy, then wait until such conditions subside.
  • City ordinance prohibits the discharge of fireworks within 500 feet of the VA Medical Center at 2200 SW Gage Blvd.


The Topeka Police Department received 60 calls relating to fireworks this weekend. The City of Topeka would like to remind everyone of the fireworks ordinance and encourage them to celebrate safely on July 3rd and 4th.

It is not legal to discharge fireworks within the city limits of Topeka except for the hours between 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on July 3rd and from 10:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on July 4th. If you would like to report a fireworks violation please call (785) 368-9551 or 911. Enhance the joy of this holiday period by practicing Safe Sane and Sober fireworks life-safety habits. For more information regarding the rules and regulations regarding fireworks consult Municipal Code 8.35.070

The following Fireworks Safety Tips are shared to enhance your awareness:

Keep a ready source of water available i.e. a connected hose; a fire extinguisher or bucket of water should suffice.

Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Appoint an adult or responsible person to be your designated igniter and to be on the lookout for sparks which may start unintended fires elsewhere. The adult can also activate emergency response (911), if a fire cannot be readily extinguished.

Adult Supervision Required. A person under the age of 18 years must be under adult supervision and in the physical presence of the adult to possess and discharge permitted consumer fireworks

.Wet down all ignition and fallout areas before lighting any fireworks. This way if a sparks does hit the ground then, chances of that spark igniting a fire will be minimal.

Always ignite fireworks on paved surfaces i.e. concrete or asphalt whenever possible; if not, select a dirt area where there is no grass or vegetation growth present.

Never ignite or discharge fireworks into, under, or from a car or vehicle, whether moving or standing still, or on a public roadway or the right-of-way adjoining a public roadway.

Be aware of wind conditions when preparing to enjoy your fireworks; if it is too windy then wait until such conditions subside.

Never park your vehicle on dry grass or close to where fireworks are being discharged.

Never attempt to relight a “dud” firework. Wait 10 – 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.