A challenge, delivered by Superintendent Jere Krakow with the National Park Service at the 1987 Santa Fe Trail Symposium in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is responsible for the eventual formation of the Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association. Mr. Krakow challenged those in attendance to go home and get the local people enthused about the nation's newest long-distance trail, the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.
On Kansas Day in January, 1992 the Morris Association for Family & Community Education of Kansas City, Kansas challenged students of the Morris Elementary School to write down history of the community. Twenty-two members of the 52-year-old organization, one with family in the community since 1869, would contribute history of Morris 1821 - 1992, thus heeding to Mr. Krakow's challenge even though it was for only one mile of the Military Road. Members turned to C. Lee Kroh to tell them where the Ft. Leavenworth Military Road to the Santa Fe Trail went through Morris. A six-month search was made by Lee, along with Betty and Fred Rosenau, who had served many years as a Kansas State Representative. Their search led them to the field notes and cartography maps of the 1854-57 section line surveys made by the U.S. General Land Office Survey of Johnson County made by Alexander Johnson in preparation for Kansas Statehood. By August 1992, the Leavenworth Military Road to the Santa Fe Trail routing was mapped by Lee, and survey points checked by Mr. Bruce Bird, Civil Engineer.
On September 14, 1992 the Morris FCE Book Committee hosted a meeting at the home of Fred and Betty Rosenau. The purpose of the meeting was to inquire as to interest in identifying, promoting and certifying The Ft. Leavenworth - Ft. Scott Branch of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail Auto Tour through the City of Kansas City, Kansas. (Only later was it learned the branch as proposed was not accepted as a part of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail by National Park Service.) Those in attendance:
Dean Katerndahl, Director of Economic Development, KCK
Larry Hanck, Historic Sites of KCK
Hal Bassett, KCK Convention & Visitors Bureau
Rodney Staab, Curator of Grinter Place Museum
Fred & Betty Rosenau, Morris FCE member & husband
Lee and Dorothy Kroh, Morris FCE member & husband
Lee Kroh later offered the completed Morris portion of the mapping of the Military Road to Kansas City, Kansas representatives should KCK be interested in completing the trail route throughout Wyandotte County. It was agreed Hal Bassett would hold meetings to see if there was interest in completing the mapping.
On December 3, 1992 a Frontier/Santa Fe Trail Group meeting was hosted by the KCK Convention and Visitors Bureau. Those in attendance were Hal Bassett and Donna Parker Carlson, CVB; Steve Miller, National Park Service at Ft. Scott; Dr. Ramon Powers, Santa Fe National Historic Trail Advisory Committee; Murray Rhodes, Wyandotte County Surveyor and Kansas City Metro Surveyors Assn; Ross Marshall, OCTA/SFTA; John Leamon, OCTA/SFTA; Cathy Bennett, Lenexa CVB; and Lee and Dorothy Kroh. Dorothy Kroh agreed to serve as Committee Chairperson and Donna Parker Carlson agreed to serve as secretary.
The committee met February 10, 1993 at Reardon Civic Center in KCK. Present were Fred & Betty Rosenau, Murray Rhodes, Larry Hancks, Rodney Staab, Donna Carlson, Arnold Schofield & Steve Miller from Ft. Scott National Historic Site; David Gaines, NPS SW Region; Ross Marshall, John Leamon, Barbara Magerl,OCTA/SFTA; Janet Campbell, Johnson County Museum; Cathy Bennett, Craig Crease, Lou Schumacher, Lee and Dorothy Kroh. Names and possible need for an umbrella organization were discussed. It was suggested future attendance would indicate interest for an organization.
On May 20, 1993 the committee again met at the Jack Reardon Civic Center, this time with Rebecca Barber, Wyandotte County Museum. In attendance were Hal Bassett, Ross Marshall, Donna Parker Carlson, Lee and Dorothy Kroh; with Craig Crease presenting a John Conoboy NPS report.
The name Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association (KCAHTA) was adopted, as suggested by Murray Rhodes. The group adopted as its purpose: Map, Market and Promote Preservation of Historic Trails in the Kansas City Area.
By December, 1993 a KCAHTA Convention/Visitors Bureau Committee was appointed with Cathy Bennett volunteering to act as chairperson. The purpose of the committee was to develop the publication of a historic brochure. KCAHTA received a $2,500 matching funds grant from the Kansas Tourism Bureau. Ms. Bennett acquired matching funds from Kansas City Area CVB's and sites. KCAHTA gave historic insight and marketing assistance for the publication of 37,000 brochures entitled, "Discover Where It All Began."
In April 1994, KCAHTA teamed with Kansas City Metro Surveyors Association, presenting a historic map display and 1850's Survey Reenactment which was held at the Milburn Junior High School lawn, near 71st and Antioch, Overland Park, KS. Mapping sites were checked with 1850s techniques as well as by using the latest state of the art electronic measuring devices.
November, 1994 - 72 Ft. Leavenworth - Ft. Scott Military Road historic markers were presented in nine cities and the counties of Leavenworth, Johnson and Wyandotte in Kansas. The signage project was completed in April, 1996 with the total installation of 161 markers, 86 bearing the Santa Fe National Historic Trail emblem representing historic importance near the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.
In May, 1995 formal by-laws were adopted by the Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association, with the purpose being as follows:
The purpose of the Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association is organized to work individually or in cooperation with other groups or individuals 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. Dues were set and KCAHTA became a 501 (c)(3) charitable and educational corporation.
It was agreed ad hoc committees could be appointed by the President, and eventually permanent committees were formed:
1. Research, Mapping, Marking
2. Educational Enhancement
The "Trail Marker”, a quarterly membership newsletter, was begun in August, 1996 with Ross Marshall serving as editor.
In November, 1997 KCAHTA published eighty-five hundred (8,500) Historic Frontier Trails Maps; 35" x 36" two-sided four-color maps which showed the routes of the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails, the California Road, and the Ft. Leavenworth - Ft. Scott Military Road in Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth Counties in Kansas. Mapping information and surveying technology was explained at Heartland Trails Festival, Rollin' Down the River Festival, and Wyandotte Days. From these events members of KCAHTA were requested to speak at many schools, senior citizen and service organization events. Other activities included tours of the old Shawnee Indian Mill Site and informative talks on Medical Aspects of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Nieman Elementary School students studied in their "Gum Springs Historic Butterfly Garden" outdoor classroom made possible by a historic grant received using KCAHTA mapping research.
November, 1997 "Morris 1821 – 1997, A Community Along the Ft. Leavenworth Military Road to the Santa Fe Trail" was published by the Morris FCE, the association that was responsible for the formation of the Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association. Membership of the organization at this time was 25. By the end of 1998, membership had increased to 35 regular members and two sustaining memberships.
1998 activities included Historic Frontier Trail Map marketing. Presentations of the Historic Frontier Trail Maps were made to the governor of Kansas, the Kansas Historical Society Research Library, the National Archives - Central Region, A.I.M.s Mapping Departments of Johnson County, Wyandotte County, Kansas Base Mapping Department, the Kansas Geological Survey DASC Mapping Department, the Library of Congress and the National Association for Family & Community Education Archives. The map was submitted to the Environmental System Research Institute, Inc. by the Johnson County Automated Mapping System and as a result of this, the map received the distinction of being pictured in the 1999 ESRI Map Book: Implementing Concepts of Geography as the "Tourism Map of the year," a highly coveted honor. 35,000 copies of the book were distributed worldwide by ESRI, the world's leading provider of innovative GIS software. The map produced by Johnson County A.I.M.S., and the Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association was made possible through the cooperative sharing of information of Mapping Historic Trails by C. Lee Kroh©1997, Wyandotte County Base Mapping, Leavenworth County Mapping and Kansas Geological Survey DASC Mapping.
KCAHTA continued our participation in presentations of historic information at elementary and middle schools, the local community college, service and historic organizations, Lenexa Spinach & Trails Festival, Wyandotte Days and Johnson County Library programs.
In July, 1998 a $9,500 grant was received from the KC150 Legacy Fund to erect an interpretive marker at the Town of Kansas riverfront park in Kansas City, MO.
1999 saw participation with the Westwood Neighborhood Association which resulted in a KC150 Legacy Fund Grant being awarded to Westwood for the erection of Historic Frontier Trail signs on the Westport Route of the Santa Fe - Oregon - California Trail with KCAHTA providing the sign designs and location for erection of signs. These signs would go from Westport in Jackson County, MO to the Johnson - Douglas County Line which included markers in the southeastern tip of Wyandotte County.
Highlight for Year 2000 was the receipt of a $10,000 KC150 Legacy Fund Grant made in connection with the celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Kansas City - KC150 A Celebration of the Heart. KCAHTA then marked the Independence Route of the historic trails from the KS-MO Line to the Johnson - Douglas County Line. This project completed signage of all routes shown on the Historic Frontier Trails Map, a signage project that totals 368 signs erected in two states, five counties and 22 municipalities.
Year 2001 saw the establishment of a preservation committee entitled Signmasters, an inter-generational group of KCAHTA members, plus children, grandchildren and others who work together to monitor on a quarterly basis an agreed-upon number of signs. Signmasters report any irregularities to the Research, Mapping, Marker Committee Chair who then reports need for attention to cities involved. In terms of partnerships, KCAHTA accepts responsibility for providing new signs to a municipality, and the municipality accepts responsibility to replace any weathered, damaged, or missing signs. It is hoped this partnering will assure continued preservation of the routes of the trails for generations to come.
At the Annual Meeting in May, 2002 the KCAHTA Executive Board announced plans to partner with others and produce an up-dated KCAHTA brochure; a brochure that would lend excitement, education and preservation to the historic trails. It contained stories identifying ruts, campgrounds and routes of Lewis & Clark, the Santa Fe - Oregon - California Trails, the California Road and the Ft. Leavenworth - Ft. Scott Military Road in the Kansas City area. KCAHTA participated in the 2002 Kansas City Spirit Festival, attended the Oregon National Historic Trail Marker dedication near Elm Grove Campground in Olathe, in Johnson County, and shared historic research for the Lone Elm Sport Complex - Lone Elm Campground historic interpretation. We announced plans for participation in the dedication of the historic marker in Lenexa at Flat Rock Creek Park, once known as Flat Rock Creek Campground to travelers on the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails. KCAHTA participated in the Wyandotte County Fair Heritage Days Celebration on June 30, 2002, as their way of saying THANK YOU to the now Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas for their assistance in forming our organization. Membership by 2002 had more than doubled to 62 members including family memberships.
From 2002 to 2011, the Krohs remained actively engaged as the fundamental leadership of KCAHTA, maintaining the organization’s commitment to its mission and involvement in the community. Records of the organization are maintained at the Wyandotte County Historical Museum, in KCK.
The established Executive Committee, consisting of President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer managed the operations of the organization. Additional committees were incorporated from members who were interested in seeing the areas of Education and Membership developed within the organization.
Since 2013, KCAHTA has benefitted from receiving several grant awards from the Johnson County Heritage Trust Fund to aid in the replacement of existing KCAHTA trail signage which had been subject to weathering, vehicular accident, vandalism, or theft. KCAHTA is in partnership with area municipalities and the National Park Service for the installation of interpretive exhibits detailing the routing and significance of the historic trails, particularly through Johnson and Wyandotte Counties of Kansas.
Today, KCAHTA remains actively engaged and committed in the community it serves. Many of its members are highly involved in activities and interests of other historic preservation organizations, both regionally and nationally. Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association maintains a partnership agreement with the National Park Service offices of Santa Fe, NM. The viability of today’s Kansas City Area Historic Trails Association is credited to the vision of the National Park Service back in 1987; to those who pursued the vision to create such a meaningful organization, and who have led and supported its activities through the years.