Lecompton It's been a year since Douglas County and 40 other eastern Kansas and western Missouri counties received a national heritage designation because of their Civil War era history.
Publicity about the designation is already paying dividends for the Bushwhacker Museum in Nevada, Mo., museum coordinator Terry Ramsey said. Tours for next year already are being requested, she said.
"When you think about the draw the heritage area has, it is an unbelievable opportunity for small organizations that don't have a marketing budget or have a very small marketing budget," Ramsey said.
Ramsey was one of about 50 people representing the counties in the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area who met Thursday in Lecompton's Territorial Capital Museum. The counties are in the process of collecting Global Positioning System coordinates for historic sites. The coordinates will eventually be included in online media to aid tourists in finding the sites.
During next month's meeting at Fort Leavenworth preparations will start in the development of a strategic 10-year plan that will be used to guide the marketing of the area and the development of methods used to tell the story of the area's historic sites.
"The plan has to be approved by the National Park Service and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior before we are officially a heritage area," said Judy Billings, director of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau. Billings also chairs the heritage area meetings.
"We have the designation, but in order to access federal money you have to have the plan in place," she said.
The plan will have several components covering aspects of marketing, business and historical interpretation, among others, Billings said. The federal deadline for completing the plan is Oct. 12, 2009.
"We will be soliciting ideas from the public about how they think the area should look 10 years from now," she said.
Heritage area representatives will work with a team from the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations in developing the area's economic, cultural and educational potential.
Eileen Robinson of Humboldt noted that Billings has emphasized the need for patience as plans for the heritage area are being formed.
"This is not an event you build up and then tear down and move on to something else," Robinson said. "You just keep making it better and better and bigger. I'm very excited to be a part of this."
The heritage area will help Americans elsewhere learn that Civil War historical sites aren't all in the eastern half of the country, said Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society.
"I think that many people who are interested in the Civil War have visited the sites east of the Mississippi (River) and are now looking for sites that have up to now been forgotten about," he said.