Ten years ago, Houston-based consultant Ted Eubanks helped create the nature-tourism strategy for Great Bend that culminated in the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway designation and building the Kansas Wetlands Education Center on K-156. Now Eubanks, through his company Fermata Inc., has been hired to develop “interpretive plans” for each of the 11 Kansas scenic byways.
Eubanks was in Great Bend on Friday and visited with the Convention and Visitors Bureau Board and the scenic byway committee to talk about the future of the byway. If the 2002 strategic plan was the “how” for bringing visitors to Great Bend and other cities on the byway, the interpretive plan is the “why,” Eubanks said.
People who aren’t from Kansas only know things that represent the state poorly and/or inaccurately, Eubanks said. An interpretive plan provides a sense of place by telling the important stories. As he notes on the Fermata website, “Kansas’ 11 scenic byways lead visitors to what the state is, not what the state is said to be. These byways wend through the backroads of the Kansas experience. For the curious, for those not willing to limit their knowledge of the world to a television show or a cartoon, travel these byways and get a sense of the real Kansas.”
One of the themes of central Kansas is “great waters, great plains,” Eubanks said. As communities on the byway continue to promote Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Cheyenne Bottoms, they should not forget Great Bend’s namesake, the great bend of the Arkansas River.
Other stories to tell about Kansas include the Santa Fe Trail, the windmills that helped transform the land, and the Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Zarah, Eubanks said.
Cris Collier, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway is leading the state on this front, since it already has an interpretive plan, developed by Eubanks in 2006.
“This is not like other byways,” Eubanks agreed. “You really are at the ‘what’s next?’ stage.”
For the statewide plan, Eubanks is working with the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Travel and Tourism department.
Barton County Administrator Richard Boeckman said the county will host a strategic planning meeting, open to anyone interested in the next step for the scenic byway. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 3, at the Hoisington Activity Center. Another consultant, Judy Walden from the Denver-based Walden-Mills group, will speak at that meeting.