Archive for Sunday, February 17, 2008

Historical changes

A new structure for funding and coordinating historical sites and tourism in Douglas County is likely to pay off in the long run.

February 17, 2008


Change, even when it's for the better, often is difficult. The changes that are occurring in the organization and leadership of Douglas County's historical tourism efforts are bound to cause some hard feelings, but they have a strong chance, in the long run, of making this area's wonderful history more accessible to visitors and a bigger draw for tourism.

At the center of the changes is the new Destination Management Inc., under the leadership of Judy Billings, the long-time director of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau. The first shifts took place several months ago when DMI formed and took over the operation of the visitor's bureau from the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. At the same time, DMI formalized its leadership role with the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area.

The goal of this transition was to put Lawrence and Billings at the center of developing the new heritage area and to coordinate that project with other historical tourism efforts in the county. Those pushing the reorganization said putting the heritage area management under the local chamber of commerce wouldn't be acceptable to others involved in the project, which includes 41 counties in Kansas and Missouri.

DMI also has given the Douglas County Commission the opportunity to increase the coordination of funding and activities among a number of local historical societies in the county. The first step in that direction was for the county to give DMI $18,000 to work with the Watkins Community Museum of History and the Douglas County Historical Society, which oversees it, on management issues. County commissioners had been concerned for some time with the operation and fundraising efforts of the museum, which receives about $135,000 in county funds annually. It is unfortunate that one of the first moves determined to be necessary in that process was the dismissal of the museum's director, Rebecca Phipps.

This likely is not the only heartburn that will be caused by this leadership transition. County commissioners also are working on an agreement that would transfer all the funding normally allocated to historical societies in the county to DMI. That would include funding for historical societies focused on Lecompton, Clinton Lake, Black Jack Park and other sites.

First, let it be said that Douglas County residents owe a huge debt of gratitude to the mostly volunteer efforts of all of the small historical societies in the county. They have done a monumental job of preserving and protecting our significant local heritage.

However, to make sure both that heritage and the work needed to preserve it is passed to future generations, it makes sense to establish a more formal management structure that can coordinate local efforts with one another and within the new heritage area.

It has long been a goal of this area to better share and capitalize on its rich pre-Civil War history. Although parts of this transition to Destination Management leadership will be uncomfortable for some, this effort has great potential for long-term benefits.


Kookamooka 10 years ago

Nothing stinks in this well written article. Maybe it's you.

BullSmitty 10 years ago

I agree Kookamooka. I think this move will do nothing but benefit the production of historical events, collaboration between entities involved in the NHA (which will be heavily needed when the area becomes as active as its contemporaries) as well as the city and Douglas County, and the process of bringing the stories of our communities to the visitor in an interesting and educational way for everyone regardless of demographic. The Watkins will only become better with this restructuring and I hope that it will be able to say they are on par with museums like the Johnson County Museums in Shawnee, KS.

Richard Heckler 10 years ago

Sounds like a venture to increase tourism to Lawrence,Kansas. The hotels/motels will need the shot in the arm considering the new one at 8th and Vermont and the controversial Oread Inn.

Public transportation will be essential to tourists.

What I like about tourism is people come,have fun,spend some money then go home. Fun things will draw larger crowds consistently, more so than historical events. Having said that this should provide tourists one more thing to do while here having fun.

As always I still say focusing on what exists may bring in more economic growth than spending lots of money trying to create something which may not work.

  We know some things do work in Lawrence,Kansas so why not do more?

  * Cycling competition brings people from all over the USA and maybe the world. Cyclist like Lawrence,the terrain and its' proximity as the center of the USA more or less which means less traveling time.

  *Art Fairs are popular so why not schedule in two or three more and do them on Mass Street in addition to making the Lawrence Art Walk into a large affair that attracts more folks from kcmo/joco,Shawnee County,Leavenworth County etc etc.

  *KU Natural History Museum

  *Try a spring and fall garden show on Mass Street cuz so many people just about everywhere love looking at Landscape ideas and beauiful plants. Invite in a ton of landscapers from surrounding communities.

  * How about two sidewalk sales instead of one? One in the first week of May and and one in the first week of October. When KU students are in town.

  * How about a Blues and Jazz Festival in downtown Lawrence such that KCMO does? Blues stage on 7th street/ Jazz stage on 8th street. Replay Lounge doing something on 10th street. Allow local vendors to cater the events. Schedule this event when KU sudents are around. Lawrence has a solid music history

  * There is always the idea of creating swimming events considering the number of pools available in Lawrence,

  *Sunflower Games

  *Basketball and Football home games. Hey Chancellor how about all the home games in Lawrence. Networks know where Lawrence is so let's bring them to Lawrence
  as often as possible. The hotel and food establishments need their business:.thank you for your consideration.

OhHai 10 years ago

Oh my God, I agree with merrill. I think they are lacing up their ice skates in Hell right about now.

clyde_never_barks 10 years ago

For the likes of 75x55, diver, and hawk - perhaps you should inform yourselves before going on your bashing tirades. This conversation has been in the mix for nearly two years. Where have you been? In an era where no one gets adequate resources, this model makes great sense. Is the issue that you don't like Judy? Get over it. Her leadership is directly responsponsible for the passage of the FFNHA - it would not have happened had she not been in the driver's seat - that alone is a huge feat!

For years the CVB has exhibited tireless efforts to promote the community - and surrounding areas (read Lecompton, Baldwin City, etc.), despite people like you who would rather we just live quietly in our own little republic without anyone poking their nose into things, all the while on a fairly limited budget generated by hotel guests coming to stay in Lawrence.

I have not been to the museum (and this seems to be where most of the angst lies) for many years...and for good reason - it is a JOKE. Sorry that there seem to be personalities involved and toes stepped on. If we want to make things better, then change is required.

By my read, this DMI group is the first to put together a plan to coordiate all of this in a manner that is meaningful. Where is your plan?

The new hotels will bring NEW dollars to further promote the great things to see and do in this area. I say kudos to those involved in helping set the new course - it is exactly what is needed.

clyde_never_barks 10 years ago

Ahhh, and we've reached the pinnacle. It's always about EAST Lawrence isn't it. Thank you for flying your flag early hawk.

Isn't it interesting that much of our heritage is central to Quantril - yet, I bet only a handful of your cronies could even tell you where the POW camps even are. Yes they are important, but a National Heritage Area??? Probably not.

Regarding your padding the pocketbook comment - it just shows how chronically uniformed you are.

BigPrune 10 years ago

Shouldn't Lawrence be looking at other avenues to draw tourist dollars other than the history of the 1800's?

I am not trying to sound harsh, as history is very important. I think the majority of people who are looking to do something fun out of town will not put visiting a museum at the top of their list. Lawrence needs something new and bold that will put us on the map. KCMO has the Royals and the Chiefs, the new Sprint Center (with no parking garage), the Plaza, Westport, Bartle Hall etc. Lawrence needs a destination type of attraction that is fun and exciting, and that will hold people in town for more than a few hours or a day.

This is where people need to put on their thinking caps and try to think outside the box. I, for one, would gladly volunteer to come up with ideas within a group.

Kookamooka 10 years ago

Big Prune,

This isn't just a tourist attraction. The U.S.A. needs to preserve the history of Bleeding Kansas or it will die. Name a Nationally significant historic site in the Midwest? The only one I can think of is the St. Louis Arch.

I grew up in St. Louis and it's a HUGE attraction. If our collection of historic sites dedicated to the Underground Railroad and the Civil War could conjure 1/8 of the crowds that see the Arch every year, we'd be golden.

The other beautiful thing about this plan, that most will overlook. It won't go out of style like a water slide. It also won't be seasonal.

All I can say can't possibly be worse than the Alamo. That place was BORING. I made a huge effort to see it and I didn't even really want to and that's the point. Historic sites are like that. Sometimes people go just because it's there. Say that about a water slide.

clyde_never_barks 10 years ago

Yawn....nothing more to say here, hawk. You've indicated you are only interested in a tiny part of the city rather than the big picture. By the way, show me the money that is being used to fund DMI from federal grants that have been applied for and recieved under the auspices of East Lawrence. That's right you can't, because none were used.

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