President's Corner

February 2018


Aloha from Hawaii,

A trail Louise and I recently took led us to the beautiful locale of Maui! It is not our first time here, yet we are always enthralled with the beauty and peaceful nature that the islands offer.

Over the years we have learned much about the heritage of native Hawaiian peoples, of that initial period of European contact in the 1700s; the evolution from a Royal Monarchy to a legislative form of government and the varied roles which England and the United States have played in the social, economic and legislative evolution of Hawaii. This evolution is similar which transpired across the North American continent in the 1800s that we label as the western expansion movement.

The Pacific Ocean has served as the waterway connecting the islands to each other, and to the continents. In the 1800s the Missouri-Kansas- Ohio-Mississippi Rivers of North America connected communities providing for commerce and social development.

The ancient overland trails of early cultures on the Hawaiian Islands, as across North America, evolved from pathways to roadways allowing for expansion and movement of goods and services, cultural exchange, and migration to new opportunities. The historic Santa Fe-Oregon- California Trails (and our frontier’s military roads) tell a story similar with the historic trails of the Hawaii Islands. On the island of Hawaii (known as the Big Island), the National Park Service administers this prehistoric 175-mile Ala Kahakai hiking trail as one of 19 Congressionally designated National Historic Trails.

This coastline trail through lava beds, connected makai and mauka trails allowing for ease of movement around much of the island’s perimeter migration between settlements. On the island of Molokai, a strenuous, rugged 3.5 mile trail decends 2000-ft seacliffs to the peninsula of the Kalaupapa. It was at this location, beginning in  the 1860s that those of the Islands with leprosy (or Hansen’s disease) were exiled!

It was initially by this trail to Kalaupapa that supplies and other needs were brought to a people disposed to the remotest place on earth! One of our most memorable life experiences was to hike this trail to Kalaupapa, down and back in the same day! We had to! No overnight visitors are permitted by the National Park Service which administers operations at Kalaupapa.

As we each take opportunity to journey upon a historic trail, may we find reward and be educated in that experience, and know that this trail is part of the heritage we as mankind have inherited.

Aloha, Gary L. Hicks, President KCAHTA


Editors note: The Ala Kahakai NHT mentioned above (Trail by the Sea), connects and preserves ancient Hawaiian foot trails; some parts dating back 600 years. The rise of King Kamehameha l, the death of Captain Cook, and other events are linked along this National Historic Trail of superb beaches, springs, petroglyphs and luxury resorts.  It was designated by Congress in 2000 as a NHT

November 2017


Greetings KCAHTA Trail Trekkers,

Fall, with this year’s extraordinary autumn leaves and time of Thanksgiving, is now upon us. 2017 was another memorable year of achievement for KCAHTA! Again welcome Lila Aamodt as our new Membership Chair with Diane Wright-Cook devoting more time sharing duties with husband Rob on the Research, Mapping and Marking Committee. We began 2017 with dedication of a SFT wayside exhibit in Penn Valley Park.


At our Annual Meeting on April 24, we recognized member Craig Voorhees for his outstanding research on the Santa Fe Trail in Douglas County. We also recognized Jocelyn Ball-Edson who recently retired from  the Parks

Department of KCMO and Dr. Ronald Slepitza, President of Avila University for their ongoing support of historic trail interpretation.


In June, KCAHTA partnered with SFTA’s Missouri River Outfitters Chapter and OCTAs Trails Head Chapter to commemorate a National Trails Day event at Lone Elm Park in Olathe, KS. Fall ushered in SFTA’s 2017 Symposium in Olathe from Sept 27-30!  Compliments to Larry Short (SFTA VP) and all members of the Missouri Rivers Outfitters chapter to make this event such a grand success!


The ol’ flag pole at 80th  and Santa Fe holds a new U.S. Flag thanks to Louise Hicks and the City of Overland Park, KS.


Compliments to Bob Courtney for his involvement in the new Trails-To-Rails video produced this year as part of Olathe’s THE CITY BEAUTIFUL series. Our own Ross Marshall even provided some commentary on the video!


In Nov, KCAHTA was influential in postponing  a planned ‘dig’ at the historic New Santa Fe town site to allow for scientifically conducted archeology to be performed, along with the involvement of area ‘trails associations.


Efforts have commenced to update KCAHTA’s Historic Trails Sites brochure initially produced ca.1997. Thanks to our VP Pat Traffas for leading this project, and best wishes for your continued recovery!


KCAHTA reached 100 members this year and continues to grow!  

Gary L. Hicks, President



August 2017


Greetings KCAHTA Pathfinders,

Once again summertime brings the flurry of trail activities, whether it’s for preservation or the pleasure of driving those historic trail routes.


Speaking of traveling those historic routes, the National Park Service, our local trails groups and the eight involved cities, have now completed placement of the Local Auto Tour route signage along the Independence Route of Santa Fe- Oregon-California trails in our Kansas City area. This signage extends from the Wayne City Landing in Sugar Creek, MO over a 40-mile trek out to Gardner Junction in Johnson County, KS.

This signage project has been underway for several years, with KCAHTA assisting in determining the most favorable ‘local driving tour’ routing through Johnson County. As you follow the new signage, look for our ‘brown’ signs noting the actual historic trail crossings. Our KCAHTA signs have been in place for many years!


KCAHTA, OCTA, and SFTA partnered to hold a rendezvous at Lone Elm Park on National Trails Day! Thanks to Jean Coupal-Smith as OCTA Trails Head chapter president for facilitating this event! The SFTA’s Fall 2017 Symposium is just about upon us! Please register and participate in this special event in Olathe, KS on Sept. 27-30!


Many KCAHTA members attended the OCTA Convention held recently in Council Bluffs!  I wish to commend our own Pat Traffas for being elected as National OCTA President. In addition, Jean Coupal-Smith received a special OCTA award for her outstanding volunteer efforts and the ‘many hats’ she wears in preserving our historic trails! We are blessed to also have these ladies serving in KCAHTA’s top leadership roles!


Our membership is the cream-of-the-crop of area trail enthusiasts. As always, we need each member to be engaged to sustain the valuable difference we wish to make in the preservation of our trail’s heritage!

Gary L. Hicks, President



May 2017


Greetings once again KCAHTA Trail Trekkers,

The full bloom of springtime coupled with the mild months of our winter past are welcoming transitions into KCAHTA’s ongoing renewal efforts as we sight down the ‘trail’ of opportunity to fulfill our mission of preservation, advocacy, and education for the historic frontier trails in our community. Opportunities remain boundless for KCAHTA to be engaged with our community, and EACH KCAHTA member is a valuable resource to the fulfillment of not only our mission but is also an inherent partner with our OCTA and SFTA ‘family’!


The heart of the success of our prior year, and the many before, is found in the commitment of our Officers, Committee Chairs, and the dedication of the numerous committee members who dedicate hundreds of hours annually to support the projects and activities of KCAHTA. With last year’s officers being reelected, expect a seamless transition moving into the coming year!


Complements to Jean Coupal-Smith for creating the new member nametags used at our annual meeting…..stunning! Also thanks to our Treasurer Jean for acquiring the Kansas Tax- exempt certificate handy when purchasing items for KCAHTA use.  Keep a copy handy!


It was certainly a pleasure to have KCAHTA Past-president Craig Crease join us for our annual meeting! Craig had been in the KC area preparing for the fall 2017 SFTA Symposium, and delayed his return to home in Myrtle Beach to attend our meeting. Thanks Craig for remaining engaged with your continued leadership in KCAHTA, all-be-it 1000 miles away!


Going forward, KCAHTA is working with NPS to renew its 5-year Cooperative Agreement scheduled to expire this August. In support of the new Cooperative Agreement, KCAHTA is proposing seven NEW wayside exhibit projects to be affiliated with the new Agreement. Stay tuned for further developments!

See you again soon out on the Trail, hopefully at the Rendezvous at Lone Elm in June!


Gary L. Hicks, President



November 2016


Greetings KCAHTA trail travelers,

  Certainly Fall in Kansas City is in full glory at this time!  Fall is a primary feature of Kansas City’s grandeur! 

  The seasons of travel for westbound emigrants and freighters on the historic frontier trails were coming to an end by this time.  Today, we travel thousands of miles in a matter of hours or days (instead of months!), in air-conditioned comfort, with minimum regard for the season! …….Oh, for those good ol’ days!  

  As KCAHTA’s 2016 activity season comes to a close, we reflect on KCAHTA’s numerous and ongoing contributions to our community. From design of wayside exhibits, community outreach and partnering with area municipalities and the NPS, we remain engaged and dedicated to preserving our past and our trails heritage!

  Our website ( has recently been transformed and certainly reflects the high quality, contributions, and character of KCAHTA!   Jean Coupal-Smith is our treasured Webmaster.

  On January 14 at 10:00 am – 1:00 pm  KANSAS DAY is being celebrated at the Central Johnson County Library on 87th Street.   KCAHTA, OCTAs Trails Head Chapter, and the Johnson County Kansas Heritage Foundation will have a table there!  Hope to see you there!

   See ya again soon out on the ‘trail’,

Gary L. Hicks, President


August 2016


 Greetings KCAHTA partners in preservation,

    First, welcome back home to all of our ‘trail’ travelers who ventured to Harpers Ferry for the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation annual meeting (July 24-27), and the following OCTA annual convention (Aug1-5) at Ft. Hall, Idaho.  For those who traveled to both from the KC area, that is about a 4500 mile trek.  Pioneers traveling at 10 miles per day would have needed 450 days just to get to both events!  So much for having national meetings 4 days apart back then! 

   Of course, several of us attended the June workshop in Independence, MO for the Partnership for the National Historic Trails.  That only took several days by wagon!

   As noted, members of KCAHTA and other noted trail organizations (and numerous historic site preservations groups), certainly are ‘partners’ with the public we serve.  KCAHTA’s unique role in the broader complex of preserving the valuable heritage of our greater Kansas City community is the marking of historic frontier trails which passed through our area, particularly Johnson County, KS.  An inherent strategy within our mission is that of being a ‘Partner in Preservation’ with both the private and public sectors of our community.

    Essential elements for our partners in preservation programming are:   1.) Preservation,         2.) Advocacy, 3.) Education, and 4.) Funding.    

   Remain engaged, and remain committed as one of our valuable partners in preservation!

   See ya again soon out on the ‘trail’,

Gary L. Hicks, President


February 2016


Greetings fellow ‘Rut Nuts’ and ‘Trail Trekkers’,

It will not be long before the grasses are tall enough for our oxen and livestock to graze upon, as we plan to head our wagons westward ho!

To the reality of the 21st Century, travels on our modern ‘trails’ provides comforts, conveniences, with allowances to travel not according to the calendar! To this extent, KCAHTA is engaged in its mission 12 months a year, and not simply waiting for how high the grass is in the spring before starting out on its mission to preserve and advocate for our area’s historic frontier trails.

2015 was a dynamic year for KCAHTA as it reinforced its partnerships with the National Park Service; the area municipalities who support our Trail Signage program; and the local OCTA, SFTA, and Lewis & Clark chapters. With the National Historic Trails workshop coming to Kansas City this June, KCAHTA is a partnering sponsor to contributing towards its success!

Remember to attend our Annual Meeting in April! New ‘Name Tags’ will be distributed and we have a surprising and interesting program in store! Our annual meeting is an important opportunity for each of us to share information, and lend support to the efforts of OUR organization!

I look forward to the opportunities before us in 2016, and encourage each of you to bring in a new member; and, to become actively engaged in one of our committees. It’s good that we need not wait today for the ‘grasses’ to be just the right height before we head out on our mission to preserve our trail heritage.

As always, see you soon out on the ‘trail’,

Gary L. Hicks, President

May 2015


Greetings fellow ‘Trail Trekkers’
In May of this year, KCAHTA celebrated 20 years of its mission. …. to promote public awareness of the historic trails in the area and to initiate and coordinate activities to preserve and protect the historic routes, sites and trail remains through research, identification, mapping, marking, interpretation and education. In 1993, we were already a functioning group, yet it was not until May of 1995 that we became a 501(c)(3) corporation, with formal bylaws being adopted.
We celebrate our achievements of these past years and look forward to each opportunity to preserve our past for present and future generations.


As I visit with the public around our metro region, and especially in Johnson County, I am pleased to learn that most people are aware of our ‘brown & white’ signs marking the routes of the historic trails. I am proud to commend KCAHTA for its fine efforts through the years for its research, planning, and installation of signage; and also to establish a program designed to maintain the signs in the future in case of loss, damage, or weathering. And once again, our ‘Signmasters’ are to be commended for a job well done!
I am grateful for the confidence placed in me to serve another term as KCAHTA President, and look forward to another productive year, as KCAHTA continues to nurture and strengthen its partnerships within the community it serves.
See you out on the ‘trail’, Gary L. Hicks, President






February 2015

Greetings fellow ‘Trail Trekkers’,

The year 2014 seems like a distant point on the landscape from whence we came. However, as KCAHTA moves into this year we find a number of last year’s initiatives still requiring our attention, planning, and implementation. The public and private partnerships that KCAHTA has nurtured over the years, continues to be vital to the success of our mission.

Our Johnson County Heritage Trust Fund grant application of $4,960.00 was approved in December . These matching funds will be used to financially aid in our trails signage replacement program. Compliments to Rob Cook, Co-Chair of our Research, Mapping & Marker Committee, for closely coordinating the replacement of damaged, weathered, or missing signs! Each of our ‘Signmasters’ are to also be commended for a job well done.

The planning and design process remains on course for our wayside exhibits project at 80th and Santa Fe, OPK. Again, this is another fine example of KCAHTA partnering with Images Art Gallery, City of Overland Park, and the National Park Service. This has been a cooperative effort by all involved. Our committee looks forward to a late 2015 springtime dedication! Our other wayside projects remain ongoing, and times are sure busy!

See the opportunity for a Pete Cuppage Memorial donation on the above project.

Hope to see EACH of you at our annual meeting at the end of April. Our program shall prove to be VERY informative and entertaining!

As always, KCAHTA could not achieve its volumes of historic preservation and advocacy success without the expertise and commitment of its dedicated membership. And that means YOU!!

See you out on the ‘trail’, Gary L. Hicks, President