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Changes to Scenic Byway could benefit Ellinwood
Ellinwood Chamber sets date for 2017 AHF
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Richard Kimple, speaking on behalf of the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway committee, shared with council members an opportunity to benefit from a federal tourism grant coming up this year. - photo by Veronica Coons, Tribune staff

ELLINWOOD — Richard Kimple represents the City of Ellinwood on the board for the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway. In addition to being one of 12 Kansas scenic byways, this local byway is one of only two federal scenic byways in Kansas, running from Cheyenne Bottoms to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Tuesday night, Kimple reported to the Ellinwood City Council on recent changes to the byway committee and its funding, some of which have resulted in new opportunities for Ellinwood.
Over the course of his half-hour presentation, Kimple, who has served as Ellinwood’s representative on the committee since 2014, provided background history of the byway, noting that until last year, the lion’s share of the work on implementation of the byway was done by former Great Bend Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Director Cris Collier and former Barton County Administrator Richard Boeckman. Collier retired and Boeckman resigned in 2016, and the Great Bend CVB changed focus in response to funding cuts from the state. The lion’s share of the funding for promoting the byway had come from the City of Great Bend and Barton County. That, too, has changed now.
New representation has resulted in a more even representation from cities that are associated with the byway, he said. In addition to Kimple, County Commissioner Alicia Straub currently represents Ellinwood, and Chris McCord is being considered as an at-large committee member, which would increase the city’s representation. All members are turning to their respective cities to help fill the funding void that has resulted from Great Bend’s reduced input. Kimple asked the council to consider contributing $500 to the Byway fund annually. He added that he has and will continue to pay all his own expenses associated with his role with the committee.
He mentioned construction of a scenic overlook on the byway near Red Wing, an enhancement being built now. In addition, he has learned recently that the federal government has made available $8 million to the state of Kansas for enhancements associated with the two national byways.
He also offered a number of possible ways Ellinwood could access some of those grant dollars for local projects that encourage hiking and bicycling. A meeting of the byway committee is set for 10 a.m on April 4 at the Historic Wolf Hotel where more information will be provided on how to access grant money, and he invited the council and the public to attend.
“There is no doubt that KDOT and the state tourism department feel the byways are a tourism driver and an income driver in terms of economic development for Kansas,” Kimple said.
City manager Chris Komarek noted that he sees the opportunity as a positive for Ellinwood.

Other items of discussion and actions taken included:

* A service award was presented to employee Mark Pohlman for 25 year’s with the city’s ambulance service.
* Approved a request by Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce Director Jacque Isern for the use of various city facilities in conjunction with the 2017 After Harvest Festival.
* Approve renewal of the city’s General Liability, Property and Casualty Insurance coverage at a cost of $117,136.00. This price represents a decrease of $178 from last year.
* City Manager Chris Komarek reported on progress with several city projects.
* Approved the appropriations ordinance and authorized payments for bills.
* Approved the minutes of the Feb. 14 meeting.

The next meeting of the Ellinwood City Council will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11 at the City of Ellinwood offices.