Native Lands Restoration Collaborative, Leeway Franks among recipients earning heritage grants

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Projects to restore edible native species, create programming around Indigenous food knowledge and several others have received $420,000 in grant money from Douglas County.

After receiving approval from the Douglas County Commission, the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council has awarded $220,000 to 11 local projects that are set to be completed within two years, according to a county news release. Recipients are part of the 2024 Natural and Cultural Heritage grant program.

“These projects exemplify the diverse ways in which heritage is celebrated, conserved and shared in Douglas County,” Heritage Conservation Coordinator Kaitlyn Ammerlaan said in the release. “The Natural and Cultural Heritage grant program is an incredibly unique and wildly successful community resource that leverages local funds to conserve tangible and intangible heritage stories.”

According to the release, the grant recipients, their award amounts and their project descriptions include:

• “Native Lands Restoration Collaborative, $59,425: To implement demonstration plantings of native and perennial food crops to support adapting farms in response to challenges related to climate change. Native Lands, in partnership with local organizations and farms, will help to build a community of growers to provide education on planting, care and sustainable harvest of edible native species and perennial foods;

• Leeway Franks, $35,000: To create an Indigenous food hub that provides an interactive and inclusive community learning space to assemble, share and distribute Indigenous food knowledge. Leeway Franks plans to offer in-person learning and teaching opportunities for BIPOC members of the community through educational programs promoting (I)ndigenous storytelling through the lens of (N)ative food sovereignty and sustainability;

• Lawrence Jewish Community Inc., $28,605: To preserve the history of the Beni Israel Historic Cemetery, one of the few early Jewish cemeteries in Kansas and a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This project aims to restore broken or collapsed headstones, provide onsite education and improve access to the site;

• Douglas County Historical Society, $26,320: To plan an expansion of the Watkins Museum of History’s core exhibits to incorporate the history of Indigenous cultures in Douglas County and stories of the ongoing relationships between Indigenous peoples and the community of Lawrence;

• Lawrence Arts Center, $20,000: To establish a public art monument to honor and celebrate the history of the Mexican-American community of La Yarda, a collection of housing units built by the Santa Fe railroad along the Kansas River for workers and their families living in Lawrence between the 1920s and 1950s;

• Plymouth Congregational Church, $17,500: To restore an original stained glass window at the church in downtown Lawrence, a building on the National Register of Historic Places;

• Ballard Center and Somos Lawrence, $13,000: To support ‘Celebration of Spring’ and ‘Day of the Dead’ community events. Building upon previous events, Somos Lawrence plans to expand the reach of the celebrations by also hosting community workshops and ‘conversatorios’, working with public schools, and supporting active volunteer leaders by assigning them the formal role of ‘promotores culturales’;

• United Cemetery Association, $10,000: To support the ongoing preservation of Sowers Union Cemetery, one of Douglas County’s oldest cemeteries, through the resetting, stabilizing, leveling and cleaning of monuments;

• Lumberyard Arts Center, $4,150: To expand Quilt Capital of Kansas textile arts programming to youth (sixth grade – 12th grade). Building on its adult textile programming in partnership with Quilters’ Paradise in Baldwin City, this project will support free youth textile arts classes, blending techniques of creating with fabrics through quilting, crocheting, knitting, weaving and embroidery;

• East Lawrence Neighborhood Association, $3,500: To support a series of Nature Art workshops focused on the connection to the tallgrass prairie ecosystem at Prairie Park Nature Center; and

• Prairie City Cemetery Association, $2,500: To preserve and restore headstones at the historic Prairie City Cemetery.”

One-time open space grants

An additional $200,000 has been awarded to four projects focused on open space themes, according to the release. These grants were made possible through a one-time allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act (COVID-19 relief) funds. 

The Douglas County Commission in April also approved the county’s first open space plan.

According to the news release, the open space projects, their award amounts and their project descriptions include:

• “University of Kansas Center for Research Inc., $75,000: To create a public access trail with an off-road parking surface at Rice Woodland. It will open 80 acres of privately-protected land to Douglas County residents to explore old-growth woodland as part of the KU Field Station trail system.

• City of Lawrence – Prairie Park Nature Center, $71,000: To support various improvements throughout the Prairie Park Nature Preserve with a special emphasis on Mary’s Lake. Project components include signage updates, construction of a 360-square-foot fishing/wildlife observation dock, ecological restoration along the lake’s shoreline, and interactive educational opportunities for students and visitors;

• Kansas Land Trust, $29,000: To develop and design conservation resource guides specific to Douglas County that communicate land protection pathways, KLT priority conservation criteria, and highlight supportive resources for landowners. Project deliverables include a print and digital copy of a Natural Heritage Protection Guide for Landowners and a KLT Land Protection Plan; and

• Outdoors Unscripted, $25,000: To support the second annual ‘Showcasing Open Space Adventure through Art’ (SOSAA) artist-adventurer grant competition. The SOSAA program will aim to award eight grants at the $1,500 level for projects about adventure in the open spaces of Douglas County and three grants at the $2,000 level for projects specifically focused on Douglas County agritourism.”

Learn more about the Heritage Conservation Council via the county’s website, Applications for the annual Natural and Cultural Heritage grants typically open in January.

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