For those of us devoted to promoting Wichita’s beautiful John S. Stevens Veterans Memorial Park, scarcely a day goes by that someone does not pose the question: “How do I get to Veterans Memorial Park?”
Once at a presentation to a group of more than 100 senior citizens at a west-side church, I asked for a show of hands of those who knew where the park was. All of them had lived in Wichita most of their adult lives, yet only three had any idea of its location.
Furthermore, I found that there is no really easy way to explain it to them because of the complexity of curving, divided streets with changing names, and without signage to direct them.
It is only two blocks from the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, yet the chamber does not even mention Veterans Memorial Park on its list of places to see in Wichita. There are no signs at all in the downtown area pointing the way.
It is only a block west of Second and Waco, yet people drive past it without even knowing it is there.
It is directly across the river from Exploration Place, yet people not familiar with the streets in that neighborhood get lost looking for it.
There are dozens of signs directing visitors to the museums on the river and the Society of Decorative Painters, but only one that informs a person who is looking for our Veterans Memorial Park, and that is at the park and is placed so that one does not see it unless he already knows where to look.
During the Women’s International Bowling Congress Tournament a few years ago, minivan loads of women who had stumbled upon it stopped to marvel at this spectacular asset of our city. When they asked why they were not told of this “tourist attraction,” it was not easy to explain. Their expression was always, “I wish our city had as fine a veterans park as this.” They were from larger cities across the land.
On another occasion, I noticed a lady busily photographing each memorial, so I stopped to offer help. She posed the same question, “Why were we not told of this place?” She was here for a photographers convention, and declared that if they had known of this wonderful collection of patriotic memorials, the entire group of attendees would have stormed the park. She called it “Wichita’s best-kept secret.”
I understand that our city is cash-strapped, but it seems that it can always dig up a few million dollars here and there for new building projects. Perhaps it is time for us to capitalize on one of our best tourist attractions, Veterans Memorial Park.
We have invested millions of dollars and many thousands of man-hours of labor in creating those memorials. Let’s make good use of them by advertising them to the world.
People do come just to enjoy Veterans Memorial Park. A few hundred dollars in signage would help, too.