LARNED — Larned Pride organizers are well on their way to transforming Doerr-Vernon Park into a Splash Pad with a Fort Larned theme.
Now, they have ambitious plans to restore Camp Pawnee from a quiet RV-park off the beaten path into a destination stop.
Larned Pride member Jenny Manry delivered a bold presentation to Pawnee County commissioners Monday about the future of Camp Pawnee west of Larned on 8th Street. The Pawnee County commissioners own the title on the 36.6-acre property and are responsible for maintenance of Camp Pawnee.
Manry said multiple grants are available that have potential to transform Camp Pawnee, starting with a $15,000 Golden Belt Nutrition Activity Grant due by May 1. Even if the grant process starts gradually, she said the potential for development is unlimited at Camp Pawnee, which she believes is an untapped local resource.
Commissioners gave Manry their blessing to move forward with applying for various grants. Manry said minimal investment would be required by Pawnee County.
“The sky is the limit,” Manry said. “You have to think what it used to be.”
She said the various grant proposals could improve campsites with new picnic tables, barbecues, fire rings and trees. New bathrooms and playground equipment could be added.
“This has a lot of potential, one that is exciting and interesting,” said John Haas, Pawnee County commissioner.
Manry said other 2011 opportunities available are a $25,000 Sunflower Foundation trails grant, a $25,000 Kansas Health Foundation grant and a $10,000 Golden Belt Foundation Children’s Cycle grant.
Camp Pawnee, between the Santa Fe Trail Center and Fort Larned National Historic Site, offers scenic nature walks and fishing along the banks of the Pawnee River. The camping area has a camp building used for family gatherings and reunions, as well as electrical facilities for multiple campers. The cabin is available for rental by calling 620-285-3721; or through the website pawneecountykansas.org.
“We are here to support Pawnee County and promote tourism,” Manry said. “There is a great possibility of getting local families more interested in camping with an improved facility. There are also ways to publicize other attractions in Pawnee County.”
Manry said marketing would be done through signs, Internet sites, campground directories and local promotion.
Possible investments would include $3,000 for trees, $2,000 for playground equipment, $1,500 for picnic tables and $1,000 each for speakers, barbecue equipment, fire pits and volleyball equipment.
“To develop the camp, we would have to make the campsite wider to accommodate larger RVs,” she said. “We know the Larned Splash Pad will bring families to Larned. People who visit the area always look for other things to do and other places to visit.”
The nearby Pawnee River would offer amenities of fishing, walking trails and canoes.
The camp was founded in 1930 by the Southwest Kansas Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which held annual camps. Kiwanis International, Lions International and Rotary International have provided support over the years.
Ruth Searight, Pawnee County clerk, said the cabin is rented several times a month during the spring and summer. She said RV owners also use the park’s facilities during the peak season.
Larned Pride has established a community garden and orchard, and a farmer’s market, and assisted with a community roller-skating program.