Deanell Reece Tacha, Founding Chair of the Board of Trustees
National Heritage Areas are designated by the United States Congress to promote historic preservation, appreciation, and understanding. In 2006 Congress authorized and the President signed into law, a measure that created Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, a 31,000 square-mile region in eastern Kansas and western Missouri which the Santa Fe, Oregon, California and Mormon historic trails west traversed.
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area (FFNHA) is dedicated to building awareness of the struggles for freedom in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. These diverse, interwoven, and nationally important stories grew from a unique physical and cultural landscape. FFNHA inspires respect for multiple perspectives and empowers residents to preserve and share these stories. We achieve our goals through interpretation, preservation, conservation, and education for all residents and visitors.
Benchmarks are included in a work plan that is submitted annually to the National Park Service to access authorized federal funding. The work plan must also tie directly to the FFNHA enabling legislation. Measures of success include:
- Increased awareness and understanding of the heritage area throughout the region and nation.
- Increased visitation to FFNHA partner sites.
- Widespread dissemination of FFNHA information using a variety of media platforms.
- Leverage of funds supporting partner member site improvements and programming efforts.
- Development of a distinctive and recognized visual identity, through coordination of literature, signage, and other branding efforts.
- Incorporation of FFNHA themes into educational curricula throughout the region, both in K-12 and higher education institutions.
GOALS WITH ACHIEVEMENTS TO DATE
Goal 1. Build awareness and identity for the region based on stories of the struggles for freedom that took place within the boundaries of Freedom’s Frontier NHA.
1a. We will share stories and messages about freedom through a dialogue with a wide range of audiences. Communication tools will be tailored to the needs of each audience.
- Produced a 12-minute video DVD to use in presentations and on the FFNHA website, with a grant from the Barton P. & Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust.
- Produced a comprehensive map depicting the heritage area’s history and printed 150,000 copies, with the support of the William T. Kemper Foundation.
- Made 74 presentations (as of September 2011) reaching nearly 2,500 residents in more than 50 communities to gain support for the work of FFNHA.
- Partnered with Symphony in the Flint Hills to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of Statehood and the beginning of the Civil War and to raise awareness of FFNHA for the audience of 7,000+, on June 10, 2011. The FFNHA message was communicated in early promotional materials, in the event program/field journal and in a speakers’ tent the day of the event.
1b. We will maintain online tools to engage residents in learning about Freedom’s Frontier stories and the values they teach.
- Redeveloped the website (www.freedomsfrontier.org) to provide opportunities for partners to tell their specific stories as well as connect stories of the area for the public. Redevelopment of the website is made possible by a grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce/Travel & Tourism and the SE Kansas Prosperity Foundation.
- Established a social media strategy, integrating Facebook, Twitter, and a blog to present FFNHA messages.
- Work made possible by a grant from the Douglas County Community Foundation and KU Museum Studies interns is nearly complete on a prototype to use in conjunction with QR codes that will allow visitors to access additional information on sites from their smart phones. The goal is to enhance existing exhibits and to assist partners in connecting their stories to one another.
Goal 2. Enhance, sustain, and preserve the unique cultural and historic assets within our physical and cultural landscapes that fostered these stories.
2a. We will work with site owners and managers, event managers, collections managers, craftspeople and artists, local historians, state, county and local agencies and other interested partners to identify the unique historic, cultural and natural resources, and stories within the heritage area that contribute to the Freedom’s Frontier story.
- Presented educational workshops to nearly 1,000 partners at 19 regular meetings of FFNHA partners.
- Successfully wrote a $55,000 grant to the American Battlefield Protection Program to create a strategic plan for the Lone Jack Battlefield. FFNHA staff will manage the grant.
2b. We will inform individuals, organizations, and government entities about the heritage area in order to encourage them to sustain a sense of place through preservation and conservation.
- The Douglas County Commission has adopted $350,000 for a Cultural and Heritage Grant Fund that incorporates FFNHA themes in the scope of the application. As part of the project, the county will become a prototype for partner counties in CLG application and survey of heritage sites.
2c. We will work with regional groups to protect key historic and ecological sites that support the heritage area’s stories.
- Freedom’s Frontier has established a relationship with Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), Missouri & Kansas Scenic Byways Commissions, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Kansas State Historical Society, Kansas Land Trust, environmental advocacy groups, state government agencies such as MoDOT and KDOT, Fort Leavenworth and numerous city and county governments.
Goal 3. Inspire tolerance and respect for multiple perspectives.
3a. We will work with local educators and educational institutions to develop, promote, and offer educational opportunities to increase awareness of the Freedom’s Frontier stories in the heritage area’s schools and provide programming for the general public.
- Supported an NPS grant for Historic Fort Scott’s production of 500 DVDs to be distributed to middle schools in the area.
- Offered a financial award to 2009 and 2010 Kansas History Day winners who choose topics related to FFNHA themes.
- Sponsored the Kansas Humanities Council program “Shared Stories of the Civil War” offering primary-sourced scripts and facilitation guidance focused on the history of the area for Reader’s Theatre productions that depict both Missouri and Kansas perspectives on the topics. To date 3,187 people have accessed the information from the KHC website and a recent video production of an event has been viewed 67 times in the first month available. The program is expected to gain momentum over the fall and winter.
3b. We will reach out to underserved communities both as a key audience and for input in the planning and execution of projects.
- Exhibited at the National Network to Freedom Conference, the Votaw Colony Reunion Conference and met with numerous African American and Native American groups to explore ways to work together.
3c. We will work with partners such as colleges, universities, and institutes to support conferences and public forums to discuss and debate the regional and global meaning of freedom from various perspectives.
- In partnership with the Kansas City Public Library, will sponsor the Border War Conference, scheduled for November 10-12, 2011. Twelve scholars from throughout the country will present papers and engage the public around new perspectives on the Border War.
Goal 4. Empower residents to preserve and share our nationally important authentic stories in an engaging way.
4a. We will work with site owners and managers and event organizers to recognize locations and events and to improve the visitor experience and interpretation as well as to help them meet criteria that will allow them to become recognized locations and events.
- Worked with 50+sites to submit information and have peer reviews conducted to qualify for levels of recognition and appearance on the historic map.
4b. We will work with our recognized locations and events to enhance services, interpretation, and connection to the Freedom’s Frontier story and to other sites in the heritage area.
4c. We will continue to engage residents in planning and executing projects to increase awareness and support of Freedom’s Frontier by local constituents.
Goal 5. Work with individuals, economic development organizations, tourism bureaus, and government entities to develop Freedom’s Frontier as a sustainable destination.
5a. We will work with individual destinations, sites, and tourism marketing entities to promote Freedom’s Frontier in a coordinated way.
- Developed a cooperative advertising concept for partners and placed in the Missouri and Kansas Travel Guides for 2011-12 (distribution of nearly 1 million) as well as in three special sections of the Kansas City Star on the Civil War.
- A comprehensive historical map of the area is distributed through partners, tourism visitor centers, and in response to requests for information.
5b. We will encourage and promote annual events tied to significant anniversaries of Freedom’s Frontier stories.
- Annual events appear on the comprehensive historical map and on each state’s tourism calendar.
- Participated in 24 outreach events in 17 communities using an outreach display of photos and the distribution of the comprehensive historical map. Sponsored a historic performance tent at the Kansas Sampler Festival.
- Partnered with Symphony in the Flint Hills to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of Statehood and the beginning of the Civil War and to raise awareness of FFNHA to the audience of 7,000+, on June 10, 2011. The FFNHA message was communicated in early promotional materials, in the event program field journal and in a speaker’s tent on the day of the event.
Enabling legislation authorizes basic operating funds. These federal funds must be matched 1:1 by local dollars. FFNHA has received funding from the following private and public foundations, governments and private individuals to match federal dollars and support this work: City of Lawrence, KS; Douglas County KS Board of Commissioners; Lawrence, KS Convention & Visitors Bureau; Missouri Division of Tourism; Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism; Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust, William T. Kemper Foundation, Monarch Cement Company (Humboldt, KS); Mid-America Regional Council (MARC); Capitol Federal Foundation; South East Kansas Prosperity Foundation; Kansas Humanities Council; Charles & Virginia Clark Fund of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation; Kansas Health Foundation, Breidenthal Foundation, KCK; New Dymax, Inc., Wamego, KS; Central National Bank, Junction City, KS; and more than 25 other governments, individuals and organizations.
The National Heritage Area consists of willing partners from throughout the 41 counties in Missouri and Kansas who guide the planning and execution of heritage area projects. The work of FFNHA is coordinated currently by three full-time employees working with partners throughout the area. It is the only entity in the area focused on regional coordination of these nationally important stories. To uphold the integrity and purpose of the heritage area, all partners have signed a pledge stating that they will support the Freedom’s Frontier vision, mission, and guiding principles. Partners, working through task forces and committees, are represented on a bistate Board of Trustees. The board contracts with Destination Management, Inc., Lawrence, KS, to provide leadership and management.
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area consists of partners working together to tell the stories of pursuits for freedom. We provide opportunities to explore the questions posed by our very name and the evolving ideal and fundamental American value of freedom.
Questions to be pondered: Whose FREEDOMS are important? How is the FRONTIER determined? Are local and NATIONAL politics inseparable? Whose HERITAGE are we preserving? Is this AREA free?
Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, a 501c3, works from a Cooperative Agreement with the National Park Service and a required Management Plan approved by the Secretary of the Interior in 2010. These documents provide guidance for this work. Several hundred residents came together in a public process over a period of two years to create the Management Plan including the following foundation documents: Vision and Mission, Statement of National Significance, Major Theme and Subthemes, Guiding Principles, Location and Event Application, Property Owner Letter of Agreement and Partner Pledge.