A group tasked by the Douglas County Commission with deciding how to best spend $350,000 on open space and historic preservation has released a report that details just that.
Last year, the commission designated $350,000 for heritage preservation projects and then formed the six-member Natural and Cultural Heritage Taskforce to come up with guidelines on how to spend the money.
On Wednesday, the group will share with the Douglas County Commission its preliminary report, which comes with 13 recommendations. The public has until Feb. 16 to comment on the report.
Here’s how the group believes the $350,000 should be split:
• 55 percent on one or two major projects.
• 30 percent on a series of smaller target projects.
• 10 percent on a countywide inventory that will map and describe places of historical and natural significance.
• 5 percent on administrative costs.
“(The group) felt strongly that there were a lot of needs in our county and after each year there should be something that makes a significant difference in terms of heritage conservation,” said Ken Grotewiel, the group’s facilitator.
To help decide which projects should be funded, the group thought importance should be placed on the urgency of preservation, if it connected sites or historical stories, had a large community impact, came with matching resources and was sustainable, educational, feasible, affordable and unique.
The projects have to fall under five categories:
• Historic structures.
• Natural areas such as prairie land, woodlands, waterways and habitat restoration or preservation areas.
• Agricultural areas that include working farms and heritage farms.
• Places that tie into the themes surrounding Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area. More than 40 counties along the Missouri and Kansas border fall into this area for their involvement in the events leading up to the Civil War, the struggle for freedom and the push to move the nation westward.
• Pre-settlement history.
The categories and criteria were intentionally broad-minded.
“We didn’t want to exclude people by setting up artificial barriers,” Grotewiel said.
Along with establishing guidelines on what projects would qualify, the task force is recommending that the county become a Certified Local Government through the National Park Service, which would allow the county to tap into federal funding and advice from national experts.
To become a certified local government, the county would have to create the Heritage Conservation Council. This newly formed council would be the body that would administer the grant application process for the local projects and pass along recommendations to the County Commission on what projects should be funded.
The hope is for the County Commission to approve projects by the end of the year.
“In the end we have to see where the resources are,” Grotewiel said. “This money isn’t a sugar daddy for all heritage projects. It’s really money to help supplement efforts already being made and to help leverage other funds.”