You don’t have to dig very far to come up with a lot of colorful history involving the Santa Fe Trail in this part of Kansas.
From the frequent visits to this area by the mountain men and fur traders traveling from Bents Fort to St. Louis, on to the infamous murder of Mexican trader, Don Antonio Jose Chavez in the 1840s, to the development of early trading posts near Lyons and here at Great Bend, on to the formation of Fort Zarah and then the arrival of the railroad — the area from Lyons, on to Great Bend and continuing west to the Larned area, rivals the beginning of the trail in Kansas City and its conclusion at Santa Fe for the most sites of historic importance.
Now Great Bend has a city park, right on the historic commerce trail, named for it.
The Great Bend City Council agreed this week to name the city park at 10th and Frey, Santa Fe Trail Park.
Former Great Bend mayor Bob Parrish, representing the Quivira Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association, met with the council Monday night, asking for the designation for the little park that features a waterfall, flowers and, now, one of two local Santa Fe Trail markers.
Parrish noted that Great Bend has had two of the 1906 Daughters of the American Revolution stone markers ever since they were first erected, but neither was originally in sites where they were easily viewed.
The one that is currently located at the courthouse in downtown Great Bend was originally located next to the railroad depot.
Back in 1906, that was an active site in the community, but that was a long time ago.
Several years ago, it was relocated to the courthouse, where it can be seen by a large number of people.
The one that is at the new Santa Fe Trail Park was recently located there from a spot on 10th Street, near the U.S. 281 Bypass. While it was easily seen, it was not in a good place for people to stop to read the inscription, Parrish noted.
Parrish told the council that the interest in the old commerce trails, and other American historic trails in general, continues to grow and that more and more people are choosing to travel them, where practical.
Since so much of the Santa Fe Trail is mirrored by good highways, it is a popular one for tourists to travel, and having a site designated as a park on the Trail is a good way to attract interest in the community.