Students show up for the sunset


Rachel Krambeer

The Army Corps of Engineers is cutting off access to the dam where they said too many people were gathering.

By Rachel Krambeer, Designer

Weeks into quarantine, social distancing has become a challenge. However, many people are doing more than just staying inside all day. You can still go on walks, bike rides and go outside, all while following Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide Stay-at-Home order. The only requirement is to maintain at least six feet apart from one another.

A large number of Lawrence High School students have taken up that offer, often going to Clinton Lake to watch the sunset. The south side of the dam has proven to be quite a popular spot. Max Torke, a junior, went on March 29.

“It was nice being able to get out of the house even for just an hour or so,” Torke said. “It was hard to find a place to park. Probably around 50-75ish cars there.” 

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office reported in a Facebook post: “We saw this grow to 50-100 cars [Saturday] night, with people outside of their cars socializing.” 

Jordan Contreras, another junior, also went to the lake on Saturday night to watch the sunset.

“I wanted to get out of my house and do something so I figured if I went and stayed in my car then I would still be quarantined, which is what I think most people were doing,” Contreras said.

At around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, several police officers came to disperse people gathering at the lake in groups, who were not fishing or hiking on the trails. There were multiple groups of people who had met up with friends and were milling around the area. There was a lot of confusion about who exactly was supposed to leave, with little explanation. After the officers warned of individually ticketing each person, most people took off. 

After contacting the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Charlie Cooper confirmed that it is not a violation to watch the sunset if you stay inside your vehicle and are at least six feet apart from any other people. However, this is an issue if more than 10 people are there at a time. 

On Monday, the Kansas City District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that the road across Clinton Dam (E. 900 Road) “will be closed as of 9:00 a.m. on April 7, 2020, until further notice due to unsafe gatherings and parking conditions near the south end of the dam,” in a Facebook post. County roads are still in use to access areas past the dam. However, the road will be blocked off from the north side to the south side to avoid people gathering in the same area. 

A lot of students were disappointed by this news, but it doesn’t mean you can’t watch the sunset at all. You just can’t from the dam. Connor Ireland, junior, has also frequented the sunset during quarantine and remains optimistic about the road’s closing.

“It really sucks but it makes sense,” Ireland said. “You can also just walk a little in the park next to it and there’s a nice view too.”