Barton County commissioners and other officials will attend the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway Planning Summit beginning at 10 a.m., Wednesday at the Hoisington Activity Center. Private citizens from Barton, Stafford and Reno counties, along with both local, state and federal employees, may attend. Participants will help develop a plan that will provide for the Byway’s future growth, while protecting and preserving the intrinsic qualities of the Byway corridor.
In other business, the Barton County Commission:
• Heard another reminder of the upcoming Barton County Tax Sale set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the courthouse conference room. County Treasurer Kevin Wondra said, as of Monday morning, there were still 40 properties on the list for the sale. However, he said all but 10-15 of those may be cleared by sale time. Property owners have until 3:30 p.m. Friday to redeem parcels.
• Heard County Administrator Richard Boeckman’s bi-weekly informational update in which he advised the commission on activities of various county departments.
The Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway took center stage at the Barton County Commission meeting Monday morning as commissioners honored many of the project’s volunteers and heard a report about efforts to market it.
“We are not very good about celebrating our successes,” said Cris Collier, president of the Great Bend Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “It’s time to acknowledge the tremendous jobs our volunteers have done.”
Many of these dedicated folks, Collier said, have been around since the idea for the project was born in 2004. Representing many of the communities along the 70-mile route,they’ve helped with the planning, promoting and photographing the byway.
This was just the first round of recognitions, Collier said. For the first honorees, she picked a handful of volunteers who were around in the beginning.
Honored by the commission Monday were: CVB Board Chairman Loren Unruh of Great Bend; former Tourism Committee member Paul Tschopp of Ellinwood; banker and byway activist Boyd King; Stafford County resident and Friends of Quivira member Marilyn Hitz; CVB part-time contract employee and byway backer Becky Weller; and the Central Kansas Photography Club, which has provided images for promotional materials.
“This was a hard job and it was a job done well,” said commission Chairman Homer Kruckenberg
“This takes a lot of time and energy,” said commissioner Jennifer Schartz. Those who have volunteered don’t do so for the glory, so it is good to call attention to their efforts.
Marketing the byway
Judy Walden, president of the Walden Mills Group which has consulted on the byway, said much has been done to promote the byway. But, she told the commissioners, much remains to be done.
“This group has developed a top-rate byway,” she said in her update on marketing efforts. None the less, “it’s a huge challenge.”
A lot of money has been spent marketing the route to the outside world. Now, there have to be attractions and facilities in the area to keep tourists here when the arrive.
“We have to get people to go from community to community to spend money,” Walden said. There have to be restaurants and lodging available to attract not only hunters, but also bird watchers and other travelers.
She cited efforts in Hoisington to get a motel and in Stafford to open an arts center as examples of what needs to be done.
Sadly, she said, many area residents don’t know what they have in their own backyards. “Education is the key.”
The Kansas Wetlands Education Center near the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area is an essential part of this educational process as children and adults learn about the importance of the byway and the wildlife it represents. “It’s not going to happen overnight,” she said.
Ironically, she sees the wetlands (Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira) as under-valued assets. Another asset worthy more promotion are the historic downtowns in the area cities.
There are seven communities along the byway that winds through Barton and Stafford counties. Included are Claflin, Ellinwood, Great Bend, Hoisington, Hudson, Stafford and St. John. Anchoring the north end is the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and the Nature Conservancy’s property, and at the other end is Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.
America’s Byways is a collection of 150 distinct and diverse roads designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. The National Scenic Byways Program is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. The program is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States.
The wetland byway received state designation in December 2004 and national designation September 2005.