Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park Coming Soon! Interview with Nature Conservancy

We reached out to The Nature Conservancy with some questions about their work to make Little Jerusalem into a protected Kansas park, and here’s what they had to say.

KTG: What’s the latest status of the Little Jerusalem land?

Nature Conservancy: Little Jerusalem is not yet open to the public. In May, legislation to designate the property as the Little Jerusalem Badland State Park passed both chambers and was signed by the governor. The Nature Conservancy will continue to own the property and establish long-term agreement with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) to manage outdoor recreational opportunities in a manner that protects the fragile rocks. As the landowner, The Nature Conservancy will continue to pay local property taxes and maintain management oversight.

We are currently working closely with KDWPT, engineers and educators to develop a public access plan for this unique landscape. The exact nature of all access is yet to be determined but we are still hopeful that the public will be able to enjoy Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park in the coming year.

Why do you think people are drawn to this area?

The Nature Conservancy’s western Kansas conservation manager explains this best with a story about his four-year-old daughter Josie.

“We had pulled up to a big old pasture not much different than the places I had been lucky to explore as a kid near our farm in western Ness County. It was an impressive, vast, intact place, but it was on the edge of a wind farm and had a single turbine visible from where we were parked. I asked her if she thought the place looked wild, if it would be worth exploring. She simply said, ‘Well it’s not wild, Dad, there’s a big white windmill in it.’ And then I asked her if she’d want to go with me and explore it and her answer was, “Nope, somebody already has.” What this tells me is that there is a very innate part of us with a sense of wonder and exploration, and that part of us appreciates wild places. I suspect appreciation for nature as it was created is left in just about all of us. For me, at a very basic level, that is what The Nature Conservancy is doing: preserving those places and that sense of wonder, so that future generations will someday experience a wild place. And they are doing it right here, in this part of the state that we call home.”

Will it be open to the public with trails and if so, do you know when, or what the trails might consist of (length, access to hikers/bikers/horse)?

The exact nature of all access is yet to be determined, but it will designed to have as little impact to the rocks as possible.

What makes the area so special and/or of interest to The Nature Conservancy?

Beyond the impressive scenic views, Little Jerusalem provides a unique opportunity to connect people to the wonders of the prairie. These rocks serve as important nesting habitat for ferruginous hawks, cliff swallows, rock wrens and other native wildlife. The property is home to the single largest population of Great Plains wild buckwheat, a plant found in the chalk bluffs prairie of western Kansas and nowhere else in the world.

In addition to modern wildlife, these badlands contain 85-million-year-old fossils of swimming and flying reptiles. The Nature Conservancy’s chief purposes for the site are to, first, protect the pristine natural features and, second, provide access for people to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

What’s the goal of The Nature Conservancy’s work in western Kansas?

Native grasslands are among the most destroyed and least protected ecosystems on Earth. It is estimated that only 3%or fewer of the grasslands that formerly covered the Central Great

Plains are intact. Ongoing encroachment of cropland conversion, energy development, urban sprawl, invasive species, and subdivision continue to degrade and threaten the ecological health of the central Great Plains.

In western Kansas, at least 80% of the native prairie has been converted to some other use. Demonstrating that healthy wildlife populations and successful ranching operations go hand-in-hand is critical to retaining the 20% of the prairie that’s left. Smoky Valley Ranch supports tremendous plant and wildlife diversity while continuing its long history as a working cattle ranch.

The Nature Conservancy manages the 17,290-acre Smoky Valley Ranch as model to demonstrate that healthy ecosystems and profitable agricultural land use can coexist. The Conservancy then works with other landowners in the region to promote land management practices like moderate cattle stocking rates, rotational grazing, and developing drought contingency plans so that conservation can be affected beyond the ranch.

Will the proposed state park plans also include the Smoky Valley Ranch land?

No. The remainder of Smoky Valley Ranch will remain a private, working cattle ranch with visitor access limited to the hiking trails on the western boundary.

FHNT Voted Trail Destination of the Year! Award presentation in Council Grove on 7/13 @3

Flint Hills Nature Trail won the vote for Top Kansas Trail Destination of the Year, and we’ll be honoring that vote at a presentation at the Council Grove library on Friday, July 13 at 3pm.

We’ll be presenting a free copy of the book to the library as well as giving a short presentation on the FHNT and trails across Kansas. Books will be available for purchase as well as signing.

If you go:

Council Grove Public Library, 829 W Main St

3pm on July 13

Dinner and book signing at Dillon Nature Center 7/10

In connection with HutchRec and Dillon Nature Center, we’re presenting our book talk along with a signing on July 10 in Taylor Cabin. Before the presentation, there will be a dinner at 6:30 — taco salad, rice & black beans, Mexican chocolate cake.

To register for the event (a head count is needed for the food) – follow this link for online registration or download the registration form here to return to HutchRec.

We look forward to seeing you!

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Vote now for 2018’s Kansas Trail Destination of the Year

It’s that time again, time to vote for your favorite Kansas trail destination.  The inaugural winner of the award was Iola. Whichever location gets the most votes will be honored as our Top Trail Destination of the Year 2018, and we’ll be sending a free copy of our book to the winning town’s public library

We selected our finalists based on their plans to expand trails as well as their commitment to building and maintaining trails in the Sunflower State. Here’s a bit about them.

Bluffs at Lake Scott State Park

Scott City / Little Jerusalem.  In addition to serving as the gateway to the outstanding trail system at Lake Scott State Park, Scott City will be the destination for travelers heading to explore the newly opened Little Jerusalum area.

Later this year, there will be trails open and available at the well-known, but not previously (legally) accessible chalk formations. Having a maintained trail system there is designed to help protect the area and the formations themselves.

Marysville. The Oregon Trail crossed near Marysville and more recently the Blue River Rail Trail (with the beautiful covered bridges) has expanded north to the Nebraska state line through the diligent work of Marshall County Connection.

The next step is working to extend the rail-trail south further into Marysville to increase accessibility.

Wyandotte County. The county has started its 20/20/20 movement — Expanding bike routes, trails, and safe sidewalks, 20 miles of each (if not more) by 2020. They also have a both hiking and equestrian trails already in place at Wyandotte County Lake.

Flint Hills Nature Trail. The Flint Hills Nature Trail has been a work in progress for many years, but the grand vision of the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy is finally coming close to fruition.  The FHNT has been supported by many towns along the way, but this year we are highlighting Council Grove.  From the old Santa Fe Trail to the current Flint Hills Natural Trail, Council Grove has been the original Kansas trail town since 1825.

Vote for your favorite destination! If it’s not in the list, let us know in the comments below.

Flint Hills Festival 2018 at the Flint Hills Discovery Center

This Saturday May 19 is the annual Flint Hills Festival. From 10am to 5pm at the Flint Hills Discovery Center there will be food and music and fun.

Plus, from the website, “During the festival, ticketholders also receive admission to the Flint Hills Discovery Center’s newest exhibit, Be the Dinosaur. Visitors will use virtual technology to eat, sleep, and live as a dinosaur! ”

Regular admission rates apply:

  • Adult (18-64) | $9.00
  • Youth (2-17) | $4.00
  • *Military, College Students, Educators & Seniors (65+) | $7.00
  • Members & Under 2 | FREE

Big Kansas Road Trip – going on now! Barber, Comanche and Kiowa counties

The Kansas Sampler Festival had its last run in 2017, but to replace it is the Big Kansas Road Trip.

From May 3 to May 6 2018, in three counties: Barber, (Hardtner, Hazelton, Isabel, Kiowa, Medicine Lodge, Sharon and Sun City); Comanche (Coldwater, Protection and Wilmore) and Kiowa (Greensburg, Haviland and Mullinville), the red carpet is rolled out for visitors with events and deals at local restaurants and stores.

From the website with details on the event: WHAT IF…

…people who have never been to your towns and countryside before fall in love with what rural communities offer?

…the charm of the unexpected inspires people to get hooked on exploring all over the state?

…they are a thoughtful audience, spend money, and tell everyone about their experience?

It could all be a really good thing.
All communities have to do is be the best
they can be at being themselves.

Show your Kansas love with Heartlandia stickers

While shopping at Smith’s Market in downtown Hutchinson, I spotted stickers celebrating Kansas by Heartlandia.  I bought a couple for gifts, but before I could mail them off to friends, I decided to keep them for myself! (I’ll make another trip to get the gift ones.)

I reached out and found out a bit more about this Wichita based company. Here’s what they had to say about the how, what, and why of the sticker (and t-shirt) business that celebrates the Midwest.

KTG: When did the business get started and what inspired it?

Heartlandia did not start as a business, but it turned out to be!  It started as a way for the talented, mostly young, graphic designers at Gardner Design in Wichita to be part of the Wichita/Kansas/Midwest pride scene that is surging right now. (And may I say – it’s about time!!!)  They designed 41 stickers, and while they did not do it as a money-making venture, between Thanksgiving (when the stickers were released) and Christmas of 2017 around 10,000 stickers had been sold, mostly at boutique-style stores in Wichita, Hutchinson and Salina.

Stickers, it appears, are a “thing”, especially among young people – they love to put them on their bikes, cars, computers, notebooks. It’s how they brand themselves.  But everyone seems to like the sticker idea.  For $3 you can tell the world, I love my city, my state, my part of the country!

Do you take requests for new sticker ideas?

The designs were a result of a brain-storming session the designers had, but we take suggestions all the time (ideas don’t happen in a vacuum), and we come out with new stickers occasionally.

Is there a best selling sticker?

The most popular stickers have been:  Tornado Warning, Joyland, Unibuff, Sunflower, No Coast, Ad Astra Per Aspera, and the Keeper of the Plains.

Have you ever come across one of your stickers “in the wild” / on a random person’s water bottle or car bumper or bike, etc.

We find the stickers in the wild all the time!  Many of the orders on our website are from people who now live in other parts of the country, but clearly want to stay connected to their roots by proudly displaying the stickers in their new surroundings.  It’s fantastic. There’s a few pictures of stickers caught in the wild on our Instagram account, heartlandiastix.

We recently came out with t-shirts with some of the stickers designs, and those have also been well-received.

The t-shirts are only available at some of our retail stores:  Lucinda’s, The Workroom, Vortex Souvenirs, Botanica, Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, Watermark Books, Best of Times.