By MIKE COURSON
Great Bend Post
If you let a city go and you don't care about it, you might have what Pawnee Rock looks like today. That was the message from Pawnee Rock resident and Revitalization Project group member Denise Penn to the Barton County Commission during Wednesday's meeting. Penn said there is always traffic to and from the rock north of town, but that's about it.
"But yet, when you get to town, there's nothing," she said. "There's no place to stop and get a drink. There's no place to rest and relax. And that's what we want to change. There's also no place for our children to play."
Penn told the commission that, with their contribution of $50,000, an anonymous donor would match that contribution. The commission voted 5-0 to give the money to the project. Commissioner Tricia Schlessiger commended the group for its work.
"The previous commission told you to back and so some legwork, and you did," she said. "You went back, and you raised money, and you communicated with the community. You got letters of support, and you have a plan. This anonymous donation of this $50,000 matching is just huge."
After the vote, Golden Belt Community Foundation Director Christy Tustin announced the anonymous donor is the Brad and Jeanine Haynes Advised Fund, in memory of Jeanine's parents, Keith and Marian (Schmitt) Mull.
Penn also shared some history and demographics of Pawnee Rock, which was established along the Santa Fe Trail in 1822, 50 years before Great Bend was established. The city was incorporated in 1887, and used to be the home of at least five churches and parades that featured thousands of spectators. There are 180 homes in Pawnee Rock, 134 of which are currently occupied and 22 that need to be demolished.
Penn said phase one of the revitalization will be purchasing and constructing a gazebo in the city park. The second phase includes the installation of new playground equipment. A fun run fundraiser is also in the works for July. With Wednesday's vote from the commission, Penn said the gazebo should be in place by late spring or summer.
"With Barton County, our motto is 'Barton County invests in growth,'" said Commission Chair Shawn Hutchinson. "Growth without a plan or people to implement the plan really isn't growth at all. Pawnee Rock has a plan, but even more important, Pawnee Rock has the people willing to put in the time and hard work to see it through. Most of them are in this room today. Today, Barton County not only invests in growth, but today Barton County invests in the people."