Conservation grant applications span ‘large and small, rural and urban’

Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant applicants

Eighteen separate projects, from 16 applicants, are seeking financing through Douglas County’s new Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant Program.

Complete applications are available online at, by clicking on “Departments,” then “Administration” and then, on the left side, “Heritage Conservation Council.”

The projects seeking grants:

• $180,000 for Eudora Area Historical Society: “Eudora Main Street: Renovation of 720 and 722 Main Street, Development of Eudora Community Museum.”

• $163,000 for Black Jack Battlefield Trust: “Robert Hall Pearson Farmhouse Rehabilitation.”

• $109,000 for Douglas County Historical Society: “Watkins Community Museum of History Permanent Exhibit Development.”

• $88,000 for Depot Redux: “Santa Fe Station Rehabilitation Project,” to finance installation of new roofing, roof insulation and aluminum fascia.

• $79,809 for Clinton Lake Historical Society: “Wakarusa River Valley: Museum Addition to Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum,” to accommodate collections storage.

• $58,400 for Lecompton Historical Society: “Relocation of 1892 Lecompton City Jail.”

• $53,827 for Kansas University Endowment Association on behalf of KU Natural History Museum: “Panorama of North American Plants and Animals: Preserving an American Cultural Treasure for Douglas County,” a grant to cover half the cost of an assessment to plan for the panorama’s refurbishment and conservation.

• $34,810 for Vinland Preservation LLC: “Vinland Presbyterian Church Building, Exterior Preservation.”

• $32,818 for Kansas Land Trust: “Hamilton Conservation Easement,” 276 acres of farmland at 2050 N. 1500 Road, northwest of Eudora.

• $31,818 for Kansas Land Trust: “Shipe Conservation Easement.” 39 acres of farmland at 2062 N. 1500 Road, northwest of Eudora.

• $30,000 for Lakeview Conservation Alliance: “Lakeview Shooting and Fishing Association Comprehensive Survey & Feasibility Study.”

• $23,280 for Clearfield Community Historical Society: “Clearfield School: With Restoration on Interior and Exterior, Make Clearfield School a Heritage Visitor’s Stop.”

• $18,177 for Martha Higgins-Dover: “Kansas Riverkings of the Past: A Lesson in Commerce and Sustainable Agricultural Practice,” a planned museum exhibit and audio/video presentation.

• $15,000 for Big Springs Community Center Association: “Big Springs School House Preservation.”

• $10,000 for Lawrence Preservation Alliance: “Protecting Cultural Heritage through Listing on the National Register of Historic Places,” for B’nai Israel Cemetery, Eudora; Robinson Oakridge Farm Barn, at the Kansas University Biological Field Station; and a former bank building 707 Main St., Eudora.

• $5,000 for Ninth Street Baptist Church: “Sanctuary Preservation” for the church at 847 Ohio.

• $3,000 for Eudora Area Historical Society: “Eudora Main Street: Signage for Historic Buildings on Main Street.”

• $2,700 for Douglas County Master Gardeners: “Heritage Trees of Douglas County.”

From identifying historic trees to relocating an old city jail to furthering the establishment of a comprehensive, permanent exhibit at the Watkins Community Museum of History, there is no shortage of ideas for using a new grant program offered by Douglas County.

Just a finite number of dollars.

Together, the pool of 18 proposed projects would cost $939,000, or nearly triple the $350,000 available this year for Natural and Cultural Heritage grants.

But that’s a good problem to have, one that indicates a wealth of interest in and needs for conserving and preserving some of the county’s most precious resources, organizers say.

“I’m excited to be at this point in the process and to see the community give us such a great response,” said Nancy Thellman, a Douglas County commissioner who pushed for creation of the program. “It is a nice mix: large and small, rural and urban. It’s a very good start.”

Sixteen organizations submitted applications in September, for financing as either “major” or “target” projects. Major projects would cost at least $105,000, while target tasks could be accomplished for less.

Applications for grants had to qualify under one or more of five categories: historic structures, natural areas, agriculture/farming, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, and presettlement history.

The commission’s goal: assist each year with the development and creation of natural and cultural heritage conservation projects, using the same amount of money set aside annually for economic-development projects.

Among organizations and projects seeking financing through this year’s grant program:

• Douglas County Master Gardeners, $2,700 to help “to search for, locate and identify trees of historical significance.” The project would seek out “heritage trees,” generally considered those “of great size, old age, or that have cultural or historical significance.”

From the application: “Landmark trees played an important role in the settling of Kansas, guiding pioneers to their destinations. Trees are also ‘mute witnesses’ to the history of the people and events in our communities. Finding the stories of old trees and passing those on to the community makes the public aware of the importance of such trees and reconnects us with our history.”

• Lecompton Historical Society, $58,400 to help relocate the old Lecompton City Jail, built in 1892 and in use until 1902, from its perch on private property to a spot across an alley and about 50 years removed: a site owned by the historical society that is adjacent to Constitution Hall, a national landmark and Kansas State Historical Site. The former jail — and its original wood door, its 2-foot-thick walls and its two windows, each with 14 iron bars — would be moved, stone by stone and piece by piece, onto a new concrete foundation.

From the application: “It will provide an educational opportunity for students and adult visitors to experience first-hand what, by today’s standards, was ‘cruel and unusual punishment.'”

• Douglas County Historical Society, $109,000 to continue work on a permanent exhibit for the museum, 1047 Mass. The exhibit would “incorporate interactive elements, sound and video to engage visitors with a high-quality 21st century museum experience,” on the second and third floors of the iconic bank building built in 1888.

From the application: “The exhibit will preserve and present the heritage that distinguishes Douglas County and focus on a central theme: inspiring continued civic engagement by connecting residents and visitors with the stories, ideas and events that have made Douglas County a catalyst for political and social change.”

All grant applications will be reviewed by members of the county’s Heritage Conservation Council, which meets from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 11th and Massachusetts streets. The council does not plan to make any decisions yet about specific applications; instead, members intend to review their process for evaluating applications.

The council likely will make its recommendations to Douglas County commissioners in early November, said Ken Grotewiel, the council’s facilitator.