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Scenic outlooks

7/11/2014

Residents of Kansas are well aware of the national reputation this state has as a fly-over location. We equally are cognizant of the high volumes of traffic within our borders on interstates 70 and 35.

The latter presents greater opportunities for both private and public sectors to exploit.

And it appears the Kansas Turnpike Authority is taking the first step. Officials with the authority recently revealed a plan to build a scenic outlook along I-35 near Emporia. Nothing is finalized, but the concept is to give motorists along this busy highway a chance to stop, stretch their legs, and drink in the majesty of the Flint Hills.

"They'll be able to potentially get out of their vehicles and stand in the Kansas wind and get a clearer picture of what living in Kansas is like," said Rachel Bell, marketing and communications director with KTA.

"It's so beautiful to look across the Flint Hills and see nothing but rolling hills," added Suzan Barnes of the Flint Hills Tourism Coalition.

What a fantastic idea, particularly in the spring when ribbons of flame weave their paths during the annual burnings.

We're convinced the idea is so good, plans should be made to construct others in the state. We can think of at least three locations along I-70 worthy of such scenic outlooks.

The first would be between Junction City and Manhattan. Part of the Flint Hills as well, the Konza Prairie and its designated 11-mile stretch of high winds is a natural site for a stop.

Next up would be the vast expanse of wind turbines west of Salina. We realize there already is a rest stop in the midst of those rolling hills, but it's located in the bottom of a valley. Even daily commuters gaze at the twirling blades in awe; out-of-state travellers can't believe they're in the Sunflower State. Give them a place to safely absorb that combination of nature and science blended so beautifully.

The third location is one that requires a little preparation, but it should come as no surprise to readers of The Hays Daily News.

We remain convinced establishing a large herd of buffalo (or, more accurately, bison) on the city-owned property north of the interstate near Exit 157 has the potential for national renown. Whether we transfer the existing herd from its relatively obscure grazing grounds on the bypass or use their offspring to start another doesn't matter. What is important is to exploit fully a natural wonder that vacationers would enjoy. Perhaps Pete Felten Jr. could be commissioned to sculpt his largest monument yet -- a much-larger-than-life monarch of the plains that would complement the inaccessible pteranodon up the road.

Municipalities with interstate access have done relatively well with providing commercial areas for motorists to gas up, eat and even spend the night. The next logical step is to provide entertainment options.

Kansans are well-aware of our landscape's rugged beauty and the inspirational views of our sky. We need to show them off to the world. The I-35 Flint Hills outlook is a great first step. Plans should begin to construct others.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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