From Mission to Antioch to Nall, new Indian Creek Trail signage will offer Johnson County residents a ‘hike through history’

Henry Fortunato in his office at the InterUrban Art House in downtown Overland Park.
Henry Fortunato in his office at the InterUrban Art House in downtown Overland Park.

Most Johnson County residents zip under the names that hang from street poles — Metcalf, Roe, Antioch — without giving them a second thought. Henry Fortunato wants to change that.

[pullquote]

A Hike Through History on the Indian Creek Trail

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Roe Park
10400 Roe Avenue
Overland Park, KS
9 a.m. to noon.

• Seven new interpretive signs will be unveiled, and there will be a three-mile hike along the trail past two of the newly installed signs.

[/pullquote]

For the past couple years, Fortunato has led the development of a series of interpretive signage panels that will dot the Indian Creek Trail, giving passersby a primer in the history behind the names and places most of us take for granted today. In less than two weeks, he and his collaborators will unveil seven new signs as part of the project on National Trails Day.

The new panels will be on display under the shelter at Roe Park, 10400 Roe Avenue, from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 3. The group will also host a hike from Roe Park to Mission Road, a round trip of about three miles, which will take participants past two of the four soon-to-be-installed panels that were revealed last year.

“National Trails Day is a great time to be outside for a walk,” Fortunato, an avid hiker himself, said.

Fortunato, who started studying Kansas history after moving to the area from the East coast more than two decades ago, said that prominent street names serve as an excellent departure point for an exploration of local history. From Quivira, named after the mythical city of gold that was sought by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in the 1540s, to Pflumm, a name that locals have been mispronouncing for more than a century, Johnson County’s road offer hints at the motivations and influences of the families that created their communities.

The signs aren’t simple. They provide a rich overview of a number of topics, with copy and images presented in a format more comfortable for college students than grade schoolers to digest.

“I hate dumbing down,” Fortunato said of the approach. “If you’re on a bike ride or on a hike on the trail and you’re going to stop, it better be worth it. I’m trying to appeal to your intelligence. I want people to be as entranced by this history as I am.”

Fortunato’s company, Sunflower Republic LLC, received financial support from the following organizations for the work: the Regnier Family Foundation, the Sunflower Foundation, the Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust, the Greater Kansas City Health Care Foundation, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, Johnson County Community College Foundation and in-kind services from the Overland Park Historical Society, Lenexa Historical Society and the city of Overland Park.

With permission from Sunflower Republic, we’ll be sharing the stories from the new panels over the next several days. Stay tuned!

The interpretive sign telling the story of the Roe family is set to be installed on the Indian Creek Trail in the coming days.
The interpretive sign telling the story of the Roe family is set to be installed on the Indian Creek Trail in the coming days.