Citing the potential damage to tourism efforts in the area, the Barton County Commission Monday approved sending letters of support for the National Scenic Byway Program to members of the Kansas Congressional delegation.
Certain legislation weakened federal funding for the program from which Barton, Stafford and Reno counties have benefited through funding for the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway. Given the importance of maintaining and improving the byway, the Commission was asked to provide the letters .
“It’s almost impossible to get federal funding for byways,” he said. Over the years since the Wetlands Byway earned national status, it has benefited from many federal dollars.
The legislation is known as MAP-21, or the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which was signed into law in July 2012. Funding surface transportation programs at over $105 billion for fiscal years 2013 and 2014, it was the first long-term highway authorization enacted since 2005, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
However, Boeckman said it also took money away from the byway program. This program has been crucial in developing tourism in Barton, Stafford and Reno counties, which are impacted by the 70-plus-mile Wetlands Byway route between Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.
The letters will go to Congressman Tim Huelskamp and senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts. They will urge lawmakers to amend MAP-21 to allow transportation alternative funds to be used for byways.
“This is good for everyone in Barton County in the long run,” said Commission Chairman Kenny Schremmer.
Boeckman and Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau President Cris Collier received an email from the National Scenic Byway Foundation asking them to send the letters.