Sculpture’s fate still up in the air
Eudora may not have earned a bid to bring a covered wagon sculpture to one of the town's K-10 entrances, but that doesn't mean the trail's end for the project.
Those behind the proposal could still try to get a reproduction brought to the proposed site, a triangle of land near K-10 and Douglas County 442.
Leo Lauber, one of the people working with Brown and Tefft to bring the sculpture to Eudora, said supporters were still working on the project but waiting to see what kind of money Eudora could get from the Kansas Department of Transportation before discussing further plans.
At the end of November members of the state's tourism board met to discuss what should happen to a 14-foot tall relief sculpture that adorned the exterior wall of a recently-closed state tourism office in Olathe.
Merlyn Brown, the business manager for the sculptor, Elden Tefft, said the board leaned toward keeping the work in Olathe or possibly putting it in Gardner, where the Oregon and Santa Fe trails divided. Representatives for both locations gave good presentations on how their town's history related to pioneer trails and covered wagons, Brown said.
"As important as Eudora is to us," Brown said, "it wasn't quite the same story."
He and Tefft would like to see the sculpture stay in Douglas County, Brown said, because Tefft is from Lawrence and a former Kansas University professor. Many people know Tefft's work by the sculpture of Moses outside KU's Smith Hall.
Brown said a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation could offset the estimated $65,000 cost of bringing the sculpture or a reproduction. With a KDOT grant, however, the city or private donors would have to kick in 20 percent of the cost.
"I think personally it would be impressive to the state in that it could be a port of entry," Brown said.
Because the KDOT grant is specifically for "transportation enhancement," the sculpture wouldn't be taking state money away from fundamental construction projects, like a K-10 interchange at Winchester Road.
In Brown's opinion, the sculpture could enhance improvement projects around the city. If more people stopped in Eudora, Brown's reasoning goes, the more money they would spend. The added sales tax revenue could pay for local improvements.
"You come out of this with a nice reason for people to stop by," Brown said.
Although Eudora may not have the same ties to the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails as Olathe and Gardner, Brown said Eudora had a strong Native American and pioneer past, which he witnessed firsthand when visiting the Delaware Cemetery in north Eudora.
"Eudora, when you drive through it, is a neat little town," he said.
But motorists going 75 miles per hour won't see that unless they have a reason to stop, he said.
Community members who participated in long-range planning said Eudora needed stronger ways to identify its entrances.
"Other communities spend money on billboards, and this would be much better than that," Brown said. "The sculpture would last 100 years."