The city of Independence is aiming to create a destination experience surrounding the 21-year-old National Frontier Trails Museum at 318 W. Pacific Ave., and the project will unofficially begin next month as a master study is conducted to see if ideas surrounding a “museum complex” are feasible.

A destination experience.

That is what the city of Independence is aiming to create surrounding the 21-year-old National Frontier Trails Museum at 318 W. Pacific Ave., and the project will unofficially begin next month as a master study is conducted to see if ideas surrounding a “museum complex” are feasible.

“We know that this project will allow us to give our visitors a place to more fully experience the site and give them even more education about what it was like on the trails and give them a chance to connect to that history,” said Cori Day, the city’s Tourism Department director, during Monday’s City Council study session. “The possibilities for this project are endless, but the most important is creating a destination that our visitors will want to come back for, an experience that they will want to share with their friends and family, and they will want to come to Independence and experience it, as well.”

Council members voiced their support for a $34,480 master plan conducted by architectural, engineering and planning firm Berger Devine Yaeger Inc., which is projected for completion next spring. No formal vote was needed since the council had previously approved $250,000 in tourism only-related funds toward the National Frontier Trails Museum Complex.

Preliminary plans for such a complex include using the former Waggoner-Gates Mill office space, renovating part of the museum’s structure and incorporating its surrounding grounds and possibly relocating the Pioneer Spring Cabin from Truman and Noland roads to the museum complex.

With its own funding source through a guest tax, the Tourism Fund revenue can only go toward tourism-related activities, not other city services like police, fire or public works. The city is interested in using the $250,000 as possible matching funds for future grants or donations.

The study will examine existing buildings on the property and how they could be better linked together in telling the trails story, as well as an off-site building like the Pioneer Spring Cabin and how it also might tie in.

The master plan, at minimum, will define the site, study the relationship among the existing structures near the museum (including the relationship with the nearby Bingham-Waggoner Estate), identify opportunities the numerous groups already on site or those that would like to be there and develop a comprehensive master plan.

Site conceptual plans and site development details also will be created, and the firm will provide cost estimates and phasing recommendations for the project.

The National Frontier Trails Museum is the most visited city-affiliated tourism site, with more than 16,000 visitors passing through in 2010. However, the facility is owned by the state of Missouri, and the city of Independence now leases it.

“That hasn’t been something that we’ve talked about, but this study will give us information to allow us to really evaluate that,” City Manager Robert Heacock said of the land transfer. “It may or may not be in our best interest to have the state actually transfer the land to the city. ... It’s just one of those ancillary issues that we intend to address.”