Local initiative was the driving force behind it
A new, large sign was unveiled and dedicated Sunday at the Cottonwood Crossing kiosk on the Santa Fe Trail west of Durham on 285th Road. It designates the Cottonwood Crossing interpretive site as an official stop on the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.
The Marion County segment of the Santa Fe Trail is the first place where a whole family of signs is linked to guide travelers along the trail route.
Steve Burns, a landscape architect with the National Park Service, said the sign is the first using a template that will be used across all nine national historic trails. A box on the signpost holds brochures that map the route of the trail in Marion County. By following signs, travelers can follow the trail from one end of the county to the other without assistance.
Steve Schmidt, president of the Cottonwood Crossing chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association, led the proceedings. He gave a brief history.
The Santa Fe Trail Association was formed in 1986 to preserve, protect, and promote the history of the trail. In 1987, the Santa Fe Trail was designated a National Historic Trail by Congress. The NHT program is administered by the National Park Service.
Both groups work together to achieve common goals. The NPS provides funding for materials and technical support, and the various chapters of the SFTA provide the “boots on the ground,” doing local research and providing volunteer labor.
The effort to create a driving tour along the trail was begun by the Cottonwood Crossing chapter in 2003. It took until 2009 before signs acceptable to the transportation departments of all trail states and all project partners were approved and a funding mechanism was established.
The first to be installed in Marion County were “Santa Fe Trail Crosses Here” signs along public roads. In 2011, “Local Tour Route” signs were installed. Earlier this year, the Marion County signage project was completed with installation of site identification signs at Cottonwood Crossing and Lost Springs Station.
Schmidt was quick to acknowledge those who helped him make the signage project a reality. He thanked the county for its support.
“The Marion County Sign Project would not have been possible without the approval and support of the commissioners of Marion County,” he said.
Schmidt thanked Dennis Maggard, Joe Palic, and Michael Schneider for their assistance. He also thanked George Schutte of rural Lehigh for providing a place to store signs and launch installation operations.
“The sign project contributes to the economic development goals of the county by attracting tourist dollars to Marion County,” he said.
Others who spoke at the unveiling were Aaron Mahr, superintendent of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail; Roger Slusher, president of the Santa Fe Trail Association; and Joanne Van Coevern, associate manager of the SFTA.