ELLINWOOD — Area volunteers are stepping up to compete for a share of state and federal grants to enhance the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway. The byway committee met Tuesday at the Wolf Hotel in Ellinwood and discussed KDOT’s Transportation Alternatives (TA) Program.
The 77-mile byway winds through Barton and Stafford County, connecting Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. TA grants encompass projects such as pedestrian and bicycle facilities, recreational trails, and safe routes to school projects.
The scenic byway committee isn’t a government agency but it can partner with an eligible sponsor willing to administer a matching grant program. Barton County Commissioner Alisha Straub was at Tuesday’s meeting and arranged for board members to attend the commission study session at 10:15 a.m. on Monday, April 10, at the courthouse.
Richard Kimple, chairman of the scenic byway committee, noted that the role of the board is changing.
“We’re kind of in survival mode, reorganization mode,” he said.
The Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau is no longer an overseer or financial sponsor of the scenic byway committee and Barton County’s involvement has decreased with the elimination of the county administrator position. “It takes some of the rest of us stepping up,” Kimple said.
Boxes of brochures and audio CDs with byway information, some formerly housed at the CVB office, are at various locations. The Barton County Historical Society has some, although no one at the meeting was sure what has become of GPS equipment that tourists could check out for exploring the area.
Some brochures are out of date, showing a winery south of Ellinwood that no longer exists, but not the scenic overlook near Redwing — between Hoisington and Claflin — which is under construction on K-4.
“If there’s a significant portion of an informative brochure that’s no longer accurate, it needs to be taken off the market,” Kimple said.
The byway committee is adding members, the newest being Terry Nech from Hoisington, and on Tuesday board member Curtis Wolf from the Kansas Wetlands Education Center was elected as cochairman. More Stafford County residents are needed in order to maintain balanced representation, Kimple said.
The board’s more active role includes forming a committee of four or five members to work on an application for the KDOT grant over the next two months. Tuesday’s meeting ended with that task still ahead, however.
Other information shared Tuesday included Barton County Engineer Barry McManaman’s report on the construction of the overlook tower on K-4. Concrete work could wrap up in the next two weeks and the tower should be finished in May.
Board member BJ Wooding said the RDG Group handling the Kansas Byways and Pedestrian Plan will create interpretive signs for all 12 Kansas Scenic Byways. Stafford County will get a new kiosk at the rest area on U.S. 50 between Stafford and the U.S. 281 intersection.