Archive for Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Heritage area touts Kansas

February 25, 2009

Every state, every county and every city in this country has a story to tell that makes up a part of the history of the United States.

And for the members of the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, nothing is more important than making the world aware of the importance Kansas and Missouri played in our nation’s history.

“We’ve all been interpreting these stories and telling them in various ways, but we’ve been telling them individually,” said Judy Billings, president of Destination Management, which is overseeing the management plan for the heritage area. “What we are hoping to do is to connect these stories. Eventually we will make the world aware of the importance of this area.”

On Thursday, stake-holding members of the heritage area met at University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth to continue working on the project that has taken Billings and others more than 10 years to complete.

Billings, who is also the executive director of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the 41-county area accomplished its first goal Oct. 12, 2006, when the group was given the federal designation of a heritage area. With the designation these parts of Kansas and Missouri became a part of the National Heritage Areas.

“We have literally put ourselves on a national map,” Billings said. “That can only become more beneficial to us.”

Since then, people from the heritage area have met on the second Thursday of the month somewhere inside the heritage area to finish the management plan required by the National Park Service.

The meeting in Leavenworth focused on stakeholders’ roles in Freedom’s Frontier. Discussion centered on identifying partners for future projects, and planning for future 2009 events, and posting of the management plan.

J.C. Tellefson, Leavenworth County commissioner, said he has been involved with the heritage area for several years.

He said he saw the heritage area as an economic opportunity for Leavenworth County and as an opportunity to retain the rich history of the area.

“We have to preserve history for two reasons: So we don’t repeat the bad stuff and so we learn from it,” he said.

The goal is to have the management plan submitted to the National Park Service for approval in May. From there the group hopes to have Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approve the plan, which will give the area access to $10 million over 15 years of federal funding.

“That doesn’t mean we’ll get all of that money, but we will be authorized to ask for it,” Billing said.

She also said that any federal dollars would have to be matched with privately raised money.

Billing said the project started to just recognize the history of Douglas County, but as she and other members did more work they realized they couldn’t tell the complete history without including a wider area.

Members of the public interested in joining the organization or interested in commenting on the management plan can see the plan as it is being worked at www.freedomsfrontier.org.

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