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Earth Day Adventure to introduce public to new trail signage

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Drivers who have been watching the progress over the past months of a point-of-interest marker on the north edge of North Newton will soon have a chance to learn more about that and seven more like it.

Eight “pause points” along North Newton trails will be inaugurated Sunday, April 22, as Kauffman Museum’s annual Earth Day event. At 1:30 p.m., North Newton Mayor Ron Braun and city council members will gather at the museum to cut the ribbon for the trail signage system.

Following a reception, the public is invited to a “walkabout” to all eight sites, with experts stationed at each site from 2-4 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to walk or bike the trails, with parking available at six sites. A map of the trail signage system is incorporated into the markers, and printed maps will be handed out at the April 22 event.

The City of North Newton received a Transportation Enhancement Grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation to support the construction of the signage system and an archeological survey of Sand Creek. Students in the Wichita State University Department of Anthropology conducted the survey in 2009 and found evidence that early Wichita Indians inhabited the area around the time of Coronado’s visit to central Kansas in 1541.

The trail signage interprets the history of ancient Kansans, as well as important events and periods in the history of the Sand Creek area. Other pause points tell about the prairie, settlement and trails, and the stories of Bethel College, Kauffman Museum and the city of North Newton. Three locations are next to prairie reconstruction projects and native plants will be used to landscape around the interpretation sites.

North Newton City Manager John Torline worked with Kauffman Museum staff to develop the list of themes and locations for the trail markers. Chuck Regier, Kauffman Museum curator of exhibits, designed the signage system and, with Certified Engineering Design of Wichita, oversaw the construction by Heartstone Construction of Wichita.

The eight sites can be found in North Newton at: the pedestrian bridge just north of Centennial Park on Kansas Avenue; the corner of 24th Street and Kansas Avenue; the corner of 24th Street and the drive leading to Bethel residence halls; the Sand Creek Trail trailhead; the northwest corner of Bethel College’s Administration Building; the entrance to Kauffman Museum; Chisholm Trail Park between 27th and 30th Streets; and west 36th Street at K-15 (south of the I-135 overpass).

Kauffman Museum director Rachel Pannabecker researched the stories for the trail signage. “We wanted to include a little bit of hidden history, things that most people don’t know,” she said. Some hidden history can be found in the marker text, such as the fact that the trees along the Kidron-Martin Canal were planted as part of a WPA shelterbelt project in the 1930s.

Each site also contains visual clues to the themes. The interpretive marker in North Newton’s Chisholm Trail Park has hoof prints of cattle, horses and bison. The Sand Creek Trail site includes prints from Jake Goering’s boots. Goering, of North Newton, was one of the original visionaries for creating the trail and, at age 94, still walks it regularly.

“North Newton’s long-held secrets have now been revealed,” said Torline. “There is much to see and do along the trail system in the community, and you are invited.”

For more information about the Earth Day Adventure or the trail signage system, contact Rachel Pannabecker at Kauffman Museum (316-283-1612).

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