National Parks Service plans meeting about future of Lewis and Clark trail
The National Park Service is reaching out to the public as the first step in creating a long-range plan for the future of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
And one of the service’s first stops will be in Kansas City where the public is invited to participate in a meeting by giving input on how the trail could best be managed during the next 20 years.
“This is really an important, incredible story in American history,” said Mark Weekley, superintendent of the Lewis and Clark trail. “(The story of the Lewis and Clark trail) is one a tremendous amount of people are interested in. In order to protect it and continue to tell the story, we can’t do it alone. We have to do it with people. We need the help of citizens. A lot of folks out there along the trail know things and see things and understand things better than we do. This has to be an partnership process.”
The Kansas City meeting, which will be one of the stops out of 11 states, will be 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13, at the Kansas City Main Library, 625 Minnesota Ave.
This meeting will give the public the opportunity to share ideas and insights on desired resource conditions, visitor experiences and partnerships along the Lewis and Clark Trail. The trail is 3,600 miles and is the route used by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the Louisiana Purchase, which was an area of land in central and western North America that was purchased by America from France in 1803. The trail runs through the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Weekley said the creation of a long-range plan will take four to five years and the public comments portion of the research is only the beginning.
Public comments the NPS has already received, Weekley said, range from adding more trail-side exhibits to improving signage.
Weekley said most people experience the Lewis and Clark trail by driving alongside it. He said the Lewis and Clark trail is a “river-based trail” and because not everyone has access to river basins, he said road-side stops are most commonly used by trail visitors.
Another suggestion already given to the NPS has to do with creating a technology system for people in the community and organizations to better communicate with the NPS about upcoming projects along the trail. He said many non-profit organizations have contacted the NPS in the past about projects they’d like to do to improve a section of the trail in their area. An improved communication system, he said, would foster more of that activity, which is greatly needed for the future of the trail.
“What most people don’t understand is that (the NPS) is only the administrator of the trail,” Weekley said. “We don’t own the land, so in order to do anything we have to work with people because we don’t have the ability to do it ourselves.”
The public meetings will be structured as listening sessions and will include a formal presentation followed by a question-and-answer session and informal open house, where staff will be available to answer questions and record comments.
If people aren’t able to attend the meetings, Weekley said the public was encouraged to submit comments directly through the project website at parkplanning.nps.gov/lecl, by mail to Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, 601 Riverfront Drive, Omaha, NE 68102, or by phone at (800) 873-3208. The deadline for public comments is Oct. 30.
The project website offers details on the planning process, and as the project progresses, is where newsletters and drafts will be posted for public comment.
“We think this is a great opportunity for people interested or concerned,” Weekley said of seeking public comments for the long-range plan. “We are receptive to input and interested in what people have to say.”