Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pottawatomie County Tourism Developments

Below I am sharing a letter from Pottawatomie County, that may be of interest:

Thought you might like to know the status of three tourism/quality of life projects we've been working on here for some time:

1. Heritage Tourism Project - Self-Guided Tours; St Marys, Oregon Trail, Westmoreland: We had considerable historic research done by Dale Nimz (the same historian who researched and wrote the feasibility study for the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area) on the most important historic personalities and events associated with our "early exploration, territorial and early settlement" history. Some of the research was then used to create the first three of approximatly 25 interpretive and directional signs to be placed in the downtowns of St Marys and Westmoreland and along the old Oregon Trail in between the two. Our first 3 interpretive signs were designed by Don and Susan Traub, , have been approved by the local design committee, have been approved for payment by teh county commission and are currently being manufactured. They will be placed in downtown St Marys, at the Old Louis Vieux Elm site on the trail, and in downtown Westmoreland.

Preliminary conceptual design has begun on teh other 18 or so, and we are applying for a Ks Humanities grant to finish them. If we are successful - I would expect that a high quality self - guided heritage walking/driving tour of the old Oregon Trail in Pottawatomie County to be in place within a year or so.

2. Recreational Trail Project - The first segment of the proposed "WAMSAGMAN" (Wamego - St George - Manhattan) trail route has been scoped on public land roughly paralleling the Old Military Trail Road, and preliminary design and cost estimates have been prepared by LandPlan Engineering of Lawrence, Kansas. The route has been officially dedicated by our county commission, for a period of 99 years, for the 7.3+ miles between Wamego and St George, . In addition, the county has applied for TEA-21 funds to finance completion of the the first 1. 5 - 2. miles of the trail. In the meantime, volunteers are searching for a "pro bono" surveyor to go ahead with survey and staking of the route, while a fairly prominent group of interested enthusiasts is working up an organized capital campaign. Whether we get the grant or not - some work will be done on the trail this coming spring, and once people actually start using it - we fully expect additional sections to be opened, even if in a temporarily somewhat "primitive" state, over the next year.

3. Recreational River Landing at Wamego: This project is one of several projects being undertaken up and down the Kansas River to make it accessible as a recreational corridor throughout its length from Junction City to Kansas City. Recent landings have already been built at St George, LeCompton, DeSoto, the Highway 177 bridge south of Manhattan, and Edwardsville. Others now in proces include ours in Wamego and another at about the juncture of the Smoky Hill and Republican near Junction City. Ultimately there will be a landing about every 10 miles along the length of the river. Final Engineering and Permitting for our river landing project was completed last summer. The site has been surveyed and staked. Ebert Construction has moved its bulldozer backhoe, and dump truck to the site. Bayer Construction has donated the rock and gravel. Construction Inc., will pour the concrete ramp, City crews will operate the equipment, Mike Calwell, Friends of the Kaw, will provide technical assistance. Volunteers will assist. This project is funded by $22,000 from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and $10,000 from the City of Wamego. Construction will begin next Monday and continue until it is completed. The project is immediately west of the Kansas River Bridge at Wamego. It includes a 20 foot wide boat landing ramp, turnaround area, parking, bathroom facility, and a small park, with a few camp sites and picnic tables.

So - things are moving along finally - after years of preparation, scoping and design work, fund raising, etc.

Once finished - these assets will add to the attractiveness and usability of our immediate area for hikers, walkers, roller bladers, bicyclists, canoeists, kayakers and river runners alike. While the self-guided tour will add to the attractions available to Heritage Travelers.

Lots of fun finally seeing some closure on these long-duration projects. Hopefully we'll hit the tipping point in the minds of our public and our elected officials before long and futher developments will really take off. Adding to the value of the Flint Hills as a destination.


Bob Cole

Bob Cole
Robert L. Cole
Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation

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