By Jim Misunas
LARNED — An official with the National Park Service in Omaha, Neb., said Larned’s application for the Pawnee Valley Community Trail Project showed a solid commitment to working together.
Mary Hanson works with the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program in the National Park Service in Omaha, Neb.
The city of Larned is the project sponsor for a $3 million grant for the Public Lands Highways Discretionary Program.
Camp Pawnee and the Fort Larned National Historic Site would improve access for pedestrians and cyclists under a $3 million grant application for a proposed Pawnee Valley Community Trail Project. The 13 miles of eight-foot wide trailed paving would run to Camp Pawnee and the Fort Larned National Historic Site from the west edge of Larned.
Hanson, an outdoor recreation planner, works with groups that are interested in applying for grants. She’s conducted meetings with city officials and Fort Larned Superintendent Kevin McMurry. An ad-hoc committee did much of the preliminary work.
“Your goal is to create commuting trails that require minimum maintenance,” Hanson said. “It’s all about taking advantage of an opportunity. Larned is in excellent position to benefit from tourism because it would have commutable trails.”
Hanson said the cooperative effort between the city, Fort Larned and the Larned State Hospital Complex is beneficial.
“Anytime you get public input about where the best route is, that’s a good thing,” she said. “It’s a long-term project. If you can make it easier for people to get around, they will have a tendency to stay longer and visit other sites. They have a good concept about the big picture.”
Larned city manager Don Gaeddert said that city staff has worked up estimated construction and engineering costs. The city of Larned council voted to provide more than $50,000 of in-kind labor for the project.
An access tunnel would be planned under K-156 in the north side of town.
Estimates by Benesch Engineering calculates the $3.2 million project allows $2.5 million for 13 miles of trail and $250,000 for the tunnel.
City of Larned officials started meeting in 2010 with Hanson. Various routes to Fort Larned were considered, some that included the Larned State Hospital and the Santa Fe Trail Center.
If successful, the grant pays 100 percent of the project cost. The transportation improvement plan must provide access to federal land, such as the Fort Larned National Historic Site.
The trail, consisting primarily of a concrete walking path, plans to provide access in connecting the community’s school facilities and parts of the city’s northern section to Camp Pawnee and Fort Larned National Historic Site.
The Pawnee Valley Community Trail Project is a 13-mile trail which will connect the Fort Larned National Historic Site with the city of Larned, the Pawnee County Community, and other cultural/historical sites and institutions. The trail will extend from the City of Larned and include linkages to the Santa Fe Trail Center, the Larned Cemetery, the State Hospital Complex, and Camp Pawnee.
Bicyclists, walkers, runners, mothers with strollers, and wheelchair users will have easy access from the City of Larned to the Fort Larned National Historic Site and to the historical and cultural sites along the way.
The Kansas State Hospital Complex is located between Larned and the National Park site and will be included in order to provide a commuting path for the 1,200 employees who work at the complex.
The city of Larned hosts the annual Santa Fe Trail Bicycle Trek, individual and small group bicycle tours, and has hosted the annual Bicycle Across Kansas Event.
Larned has avid bicyclists. These activities will increase significantly after construction of a safe 13-mile trail. The current routes are a narrow two lane highway without shoulders or a narrow county road without shoulders.