Etzanoa Conservancy awarded $500K in state grant funds for future museum

The Etzanoa Conservancy has been awarded $500,000 in state funding for a new museum planned for east of Ark City by the Walnut River.

According to a news release from the governor’s office Thursday, the Etzanoa Visitor Museum & Immersion Center project via the Etzanoa Conservancy was awarded the money through the State Park Revitalization & Investment in Notable Tourism (SPRINT) program launched by the Kansas Department of Commerce earlier this year.

The Etzanoa Conservancy requested $1.3 million and said the project has a total funding goal of $7 million.

A large Native American city was discovered by archeologists in 2015 in present day Ark City and named Etzanoa, the Wichita ancestors’ name for the Great Settlement.

“A thriving tourism sector is critical for the Kansas economy,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “These grants enhance attractions that draw visitors to the state and showcase what makes Kansas a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”

The governor’s office said the funds were designated by the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Executive Committee and approved by the State Finance Council to support capital projects that spur regional economic development in the tourism industry, one of the most affected industries by COVID-19.

“The Visitor & Immersion Center engages the public with the heritage/culture of the Great Settlement of the Etzanoa through a unique visitor center experience including interactive exhibits, an immersion theatre, outdoor trails, village replica, and simulation dig,” the Etzanoa Conservancy’s funding request said. “Understanding/sharing the Etzanoa story – culture,/heritage/daily life – advances knowledge of the prairie civilizations of North America and the dynamics experienced when contemporary civilizations interact. It also drives the local and state economy.

“It is by definition helping all current ethnicities as they learn about a Native American people and their interaction with new world expeditions.”

The Conservancy told the state any money awarded would be a smart investment.

“This project creates a sustainable investment in a one-time use of funds,” the request said. “With $3.7 million already committed for the Center from local/regional donors, this grant will position and leverage the funds already committed with additional funders. A $1.3 million grant combined with current funding leverages another $2 million in funding for us to reach $7 million.

“The systemic impact on the Kansas economy is specific: No other location in Kansas or America has this asset – the Great Settlement of Etzanoa. It will assist the Kansas economy for decades and perhaps centuries to come.”