Council member pushes to reopen trails museum

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

When the city of Independence reopened two historic sites for tours May 1 – the Bingham-Waggoner Estate and the Vaile Mansion – Council Member Karen DeLuccie said she played tourist that Saturday, and “it was so much fun” after those sites had been closed for a year. 

DeLuccie  hopes to make the National Frontier Trails Museum available, as well. 

City leaders had said in April they likely would keep the museum closed for the year, outside of a few specially arranged group tours, due to lack of staff and funds. The tourism tax dollars that normally fund operations had dipped drastically during the pandemic, and shortly before that hit the city had been working to fill a couple of full-time staff openings. 

“That really bothered me,” DeLuccie said of that plan. 

The council member has offered a proposal to open and staff the museum a few days a week, by reallocating some funds in the city’s proposed budget and dipping into some tourism fund reserves. All told, her plan costs about $500,000, City Manager Zach Walker estimated. 

DeLuccie asked during Monday’s council meeting to postpone a vote on her budget amendment until June 21, when the council is scheduled to vote on the fiscal year 2021-22 budget. The delay gives the Tourism Commission a chance to meet and weigh in on the matter. 

DeLuccie said she hopes to have the Trails Museum open Thursday through Saturday and perhaps Sundays, “to match the other historic sites.” Her proposal also calls for a small increase in funds for historic site maintenance and to repay a small loan from the parks sales tax fund. 

“Tourism had more (reserve funds) than what is required, and that’s what we’re using,” she said. “We’re doing enough with the historic sites so they don’t suffer.” 

“I cannot stress,” she said last month, “how much our support of our tourist sites means to our future and our children’s future.”