Prairie Village looking to secure National Register of Historic Places designation for Santa Fe trail swale

A stone marker sits near the swale left by wagons on the Santa Fe Trail in what today is Santa Fe Park.

The city of Prairie Village is looking to get a depression left in the ground by wagons headed west on the Santa Fe Trail designated on the National Register of Historic Places.

Satellite imagery used by the SHPO shows the swale’s depression in the ground, and the proposed boundaries of a historical site within Santa Fe Park.

Prairie Village had in the past opposed the idea of having the trail “swale” added to the registry because of a law on the Kansas books that allowed the State Historical Preservation Office to weigh in on any development proposal within 500 feet of a registry site. City officials at the time thought that statute could prove a hindrance to projects near city hall or along Mission Road. But with the Kansas legislature’s repeal of that “environs” statute in 2013, those concerns have disappeared.

At its final meeting in April, the Prairie Village city council approved a motion directing staff to issue a letter to the historical preservation office recommending the nomination of the site for historical designation.

In a presentation to the council, Amanda Loughlin, the National Register Coordinator for the SHPO, said that her office believed the site would qualify for both national and state historic designations because it had both historical significance and the swale itself was still intact.

Loughlin noted that the nearest swale protected with a historic designation was at the Lone Elm Campground in Olathe. The Prairie Village site is particularly noteworthy because it marked a spot where the Santa Fe, California and Oregon Trails all passed.

If eventually approved, the designation would preserve the site from major developments. A ball field, for example, couldn’t be built on the protected area — though Loughlin noted that the current disc golf course that passes through the swale area would be allowed.

“If you’re putting disc golf out, I don’t think we’d have any problem with that at all,” she said. “It’s not disturbing anything.”

A marker overlooks the swale site, giving the history of the trails that ran through the area.