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New sign enhances Santa Fe Trail Park
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Members of the Great Bend Foundation board of trustees join Great Bend Parks Supervisor Scott Keeler and Hoisington artist Bruce Bitter to pose for a photo under the new Santa Fe Trail Park sign at 10th and Frey St. in Great Bend. Pictured are, from left: John Cross, David Thill, Bitter, Mark Mingenback, Barry Bowers, Ken Roberts and Keeler.

A new sign welcomes people to the Santa Fe Trail Park located at 10th and Frey Street in Great Bend.

Members of the Great Bend Foundation’s board of trustees met at the park last week to admire the handiwork of Hoisington metal artist Bruce Bitter and the physical installation done by Great Bend Parks Supervisor Scott Keeler and his staff. The metal archway shows the name of the small park framed between two oxen yokes, reminiscent of the teams that once pulled wagons across the Santa Fe Trail.

The park features one of the Santa Fe Trail markers placed by members of the Daughters of the American Revolution in the early 1900s. There are also signs that explain some of the history of the commercial highway from Independence, Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, that preceded the railroad.

When the new sign was installed recently, another small plaque was added to honor Robert Parrish, past mayor of Great Bend, trustee of the Great Bend Foundation Inc. and Santa Fe Trail historian. It was Parrish who recommended that the DAR trail marker be moved to the park several years ago. 

He worked with Bitter on the design of the new sign for about a year. Parrish died on March 2, 2017, at the age of 89.

Members of the Great Bend Foundation Board said Parrish envisioned a sign at the park and they are happy to have completed his vision.

“This was Bob’s project,” said board member Mark Mingenback. “We always got a real good history lesson whenever we visited with Bob. We miss him. It was fitting that we conclude this project in honor of him.”

The Great Bend Foundation Inc. was started during Great Bend’s Streetscape project several years ago, said board member David Thill. It provides a way for the public to make contributions to projects where public funds are also used. This 501(c)(3) organization has helped fund such projects as the B-29 Memorial near the Great Bend Municipal Airport, the dog park at Veterans Memorial Park and the statue in the courthouse square that honors Jack Kilby. Donations can be mailed to Great Bend Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 365, Great Bend, KS 67530.

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A Santa Fe Trail marker sits at the Santa Fe Trail Park in Great Bend. The park’s decorative sign in the background was recently added.