For years the cowboy silhouette sign has welcomed travelers along the west route into Dodge City, but if the road is expanded too wide, the landowner told the city it can find a new place for it.
If US-50 west of the city is expanded in the way preferred by Kansas Department of Transportation engineers, the city will have to find a new place to put the cowboy silhouette sign, landowner Jack Fox told the City Commission Tuesday.
"If they go with the 60-foot median, I'm going to have to ask the city to move (the sign) elsewhere," Fox said. "There isn't another place that is more perfect than that is. It's up on the hill, you can see it from far away. The cowboys, that's how they ran over the rocks. It's just the perfect place for it."
KDOT prefers an option that would add a 60-foot median between the eastbound and westbound lanes as the road passes the Point of Rocks geographic formation, citing safety reasons. The second option would instead put all four lanes on a single roadbed separated by a 16-foot unraised asphalt median.
Both options would remove portions of the Point of Rocks and add a retaining wall designed to look like rock, but are a compromise from earlier renderings that would have completely removed the sandstone formation.
KDOT engineers met with the City Commission during a work session on Jan. 6 and presented the two options. During a work session, commissioners cannot pass resolutions, but generally supported the 60-foot option.
Fox said he purchased the property because it included the Point of Rocks, and has had a 20-year lease with the city since Feb. 4, 1997.
"I hope you'll go with us on the 16-foot median rather than the 60, because I don't want to lose more of it than I have to," Fox said.
Fox and members of the Santa Fe Trail Association and the Great Western Cattle Trail Association say KDOT should extend the 16-foot median to the Point of Rocks since the US-400 overpass a little under a mile and a half before the formation will require it anyway.
"As an organization we think that's a reasonable decision to make," said Bill Bunyan, the president of the local chapter of the trail association.
Bunyan points to a photo of a historic market placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution sitting atop the formation before the highway was paved. That marker now sits aside a turnoff across from the Dodge House on Wyatt Earp Boulevard.
"It's a very historic spot. I think maybe most of us took it for granted as just a pile of rocks," he said.
The photo also shows that the Point of Rocks was not as molested by highway construction as had been originally thought, he said. The Point of Rocks was previously rejected as a national and state historical place as it was considered too modified from its original form.
"We were shocked. We were told they blasted the thing to pieces for highway work," Bunyan said.
As he began speaking to the City Commission, Mike Strodtman, Vice-president of the local chapter of the trail association, read a portion of the city's mission statement on the chamber wall:
"...to improve quality of life and preserve heritage."
The city's efforts to preserve its heritage was a major reason it was listed as True West magazine's top "true western town" this year, he said.
"I realize safety is an issue," Strodtman said, "but if it's safe for 1.5 miles, it should be safe for 3 miles."
He read a portion of a story describing a buffalo hunt in 1866 and the return trip past Pawnee Rock, which "protruded 50 or 75 feet above the hill which bears the name."
The rock was later quarried for building stones.
"It was quite a landmark and grandfather hated to see it go," Strodtman read. "Maybe pictures could be found showing how it stood up above the prairie. My old Kansas history book had a sketch of it."