New interpretive signs are ready to greet travelers along the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway, just off K-156 at Cheyenne Bottoms and K-4 east of Hoisington. They are a welcome site, said Curtis Wolf, byway committee member and Kansas Wetlands Education Center director.
“The Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway committee has anxiously awaited the completion of the Kansas Byways Interpretive Sign project,” he said. The project has produced 11 new signs for the route.
In addition to the K-156 plaques, other improvements include the replacement byway overview panels at the K-4 overlook and a new covered kiosk with six new interpretive panels at the U.S. 50 rest area west of Stafford.
Topics of the interpretive panels at Cheyenne Bottoms include Danger on the Frontier, Escape to the Frontier, Possibility on the Frontier, Byway Tour Information and Byway Points of Interest.
“The signs are a nice addition to the impressive set of interpretive signs that the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway had previously created and installed along the byway and in the seven byway communities,” Wolf said.
The K-4 kiosk panels present an overview of the Bottoms as well as suggestions for planning a trip along the byway.
Established in 2002, the 77-mile Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway snakes through Barton and Stafford counties, connecting Cheyenne Bottoms at the north end and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge at the south. It includes the cities Claflin, Ellinwood, Great Bend, Hudson, Stafford and St. John.
“Through the interpretive signs and visiting the communities, visitors to the byway should be able to get a great glimpse of the history, wildlife, people and communities that make the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway unique,” Wolf said.
About the program
The signage is part of a joint statewide Kansas Byways program involving the Kansas Department of Transportation, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, the Kansas Historical Society and the Federal Highway Administration. In all, there are 39 new signs on the 12 scenic or historic byways in Kansas.
“Kansas Byways are a collection of routes that highlight the beauty, history and heritage of Kansas; help stimulate the economy through tourism; and promote a positive image of the state,” said Sue Stringer, Kansas Byways Program coordinator. Nine of the routes are scenic byways and three are historic byways. Two of the scenic routes, the Wetlands and Wildlife and the Flint Hills, have national scenic byway status.
The latest $1.44 million project included construction of five new kiosks housing interpretive panels, the rehabilitation of 12 existing kiosks and their signs, 26 interpretive signage plazas and 12 Kansas Byway welcome boards which will guide travelers to the byways as they travel the state. In all, 142 panel surfaces were produced.
KDOT and KDWPT received a $220,000 National Scenic Byway grant from the FHWA in 2010 to develop the Kansas Byways Interpretive Plan, Stringer said. KDOT and KDWPT evenly split the required 20 percent match of $44,000.
Other members of local byway committees appreciate the enhancements to their byways as well.
“The kiosk and new interpretive signage add so much to the history and understanding of the surrounding area for tourists to stop and read,” said Kaye Kuhn, Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway, south central Kansas.
Jayne Humphrey Pearce added, “The Western Vistas Historic Byway Steering Committee is delighted that these new features are now available to those exploring our byway.”
In 2014, KDWPT received a two-phase Transportation Alternative Grant from the FHWA which was administered through KDOT for design and construction. RDG Planning and Design, Omaha, Neb., was responsible for the design phase ($235,560). GSR Construction Inc., Lawrence, served as general contractor ($986,168) for the construction phase. KDWPT paid the required 20 percent match for each phase.
“The project is the result of a huge partnership, and we want to thank our partners in this effort,” said Scott Shields, KDOT Byways Manager. “They include the National Scenic Byway Program, the FHWA, local byway committees, KDOT and KDWPT staff, local Kansas Byway cities and counties and the KHS.”
For information about exploring the Kansas Byways, visit travelks.com/ksbyways/.