For years now, economic development and convention and visitors bureau officials in Barton County have worked tirelessly to promote the Wildlife National Scenic Byway which winds for 77 miles from Cheyenne Bottoms in Barton County to Quivira Wildlife Refuge in Stafford County.
This treasure is one of 11 scenic byways in Kansas. It is one of only two national scenic byways in the state, the other being in the Flint Hills. There are 70 byways nationwide.
But, after years of development and publicity, the route is at risk falling into a rut, Barton County Administrator Richard Boeckman told the Barton County Commission Monday morning. “We want to make sure the byway doesn’t get stale.”
There was an economic development and tourism conference held at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center across from the Bottoms a couple weeks ago. Among those present were Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Secretary Robin Jennison and Gov. Sam Brownback.
Boeckman said Brownback has come out as a strong advocate for such tourism efforts, but made a very good point. Kansas is lousy at self promotion.
We all know what we have here – the fresh air, sweeping vistas and abundant wildlife. From bird watchers to hunters, this is an outdoor paradise. But, who else knows about this wonder?
Boeckman said the governor has pledged to help with improving telling and selling the story of the byway and other tourism opportunities. This could include more signs and other promotional programs.
But, “these all cost money,” he said. So, he challenged the state leaders at the meeting to put their money where their mouths are.
We can hope they will. At first blush, this may seem like a local issue and why would the state want to channel scarce funds to a ribbon of asphalt out here?
However, this must be looked at in the broader sense. Each byway and park is part of a larger picture and each part makes the state as a whole more attractive to outdoor types.
So, where local officials need to keep the byway in the public eye around here, the state must do its part as well. The smell of stale marsh water is unpleasant.