“A Refuge to Explore” is a program developed for Stafford County with the goal to cultivate a county level pride/identity. It’s part of the Engaging Placemaking for Innovative Communities (EPIC), which is a placemaking pilot program lead by the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC). The goal is to find, preserve, and provide programming that taps into a community’s history and enhances the cultural environment for locals and tourists.  

“A Refuge to Explore” focuses on Stafford County being the gateway to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Quivira is a wetland of international significance with proximity to the Central Flyway migration route and the salt marshes on the refuge combine to endow the refuge with a large variety of birds. Many of these birds are uncommon in other parts of Kansas or even the central part of the continent. Quivira also boasts as a migration stop for Monarch butterflies who stop in Quivira to rest and eat.   Quivira has untapped tourism potential as a destination for bird watching, hunting and fishing, and education for young families. It’s a place that can be leveraged to develop the economy of the county. 

The Stafford County EPIC cohort’s plan is to develop 3D statues of whooping cranes at the entrance of each city just off the highway that highlights Quivira. The whooping cranes outside of Stafford will invite guests to enter their gateway to Quivira. Stafford intends to develop an event space that incorporates a spot where monarchs can stop and eat, a park where people can enjoy learning about the different animals from Quivira while listening to music or enjoying a picnic with friends. A band shell will be placed in the park for the many events that Stafford does downtown including their Octoberfest that is continuing to grow. Another event is going to be created to kick off the spring season to invite the migration of both the birds, monarchs, and tourists. A Crane mural will be painted on the side of the old lumber yard to enhance the beginning of the downtown area.  Steel banners will be added to the light poles showcasing the majesty of the crane with its wings outstretched. All of this enhances the gateway to Quivira and invites people to “Explore the Refuge”.  

We will also be offering smaller cranes and monarch butterflies that families can put in their yard or on their houses as a fund raiser to fund further tourism activities.