The Garden City Telegram
12/31/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Byway beauty

Program leads to recognition and boost for western Kansas.

A piece of historic terrain in western Kansas has made a statement in a new way.

A 105-mile stretch of highway from Scott City to Oakley to Sharon Springs has become the state's first historic byway, dubbed the Western Vistas Historic Byway.

Several years ago, community leaders from Scott, Logan and Wallace counties agreed to seek scenic byway designation for the route. Others saw the route's attributes in another light, and urged the western Kansas group to instead consider historic byway designation.

After approval from the Kansas Department of Transportation's byway committee, the Western Vistas Historic Byway was on its way to becoming the first such byway in Kansas, running from Scott City north to Oakley on U.S. 83, and then west to Sharon Springs on U.S. 40 Highway.

Motorists on the byway today cover territory once traveled by settlers heading west, and encounter such notable sights as Battle Canyon, site of the last Indian battle in Kansas. Picturesque Lake Scott State Park also is featured.

The route has plenty of features that should be known by travelers, who can take in an early Indian pueblo, follow an ancient road once traveled by buffalo hunters, gold-seekers and stagecoaches, and travel trails once graced by Buffalo Bill, George Armstrong Custer and Wild Bill Hickok,

A new informational kiosk and observation point located some 27 miles south of Oakley along the west side of U.S. 83 Highway is available to help travelers learn more.

Scott City artist Jerry Thomas illustrated the historic scenery, which couples narratives and maps associated with the byway.

Having a route that evolved into the state's first historic byway was positive recognition in a part of the state that's often overlooked, and on the receiving end of jokes by outsiders who perceive the region as dull and uninviting.

The attention proved something many western Kansans already know, although some take for granted: This region does indeed have its share of interesting sights that are worth a look due to their natural beauty and historical significance.

With official historic byway designation, more travelers will discover the same.