Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant Program

Heritage Conservation Council

Contact Us

Hours: Scheduled visits only
Contact: Contact HCC

Heritage Coordinator

Kaitlyn Ammerlaan

Contact Us

Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant Program

Developed alongside the Heritage Conservation Council in 2011, the Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant Program provides funding to organizations to support a variety of natural and cultural heritage conservation projects in Douglas County.

2024 Natural & Cultural Heritage Grant Program Overview

The Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant Program is considered for approval annually by the Board of County Commissioners to assist with the development and implementation of natural and cultural heritage conservation projects in Douglas County. The Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant Program is designed to protect, conserve, and share Douglas County’s heritage resources.  

Grants are awarded annually in a competitive cycle beginning in January each year. With administrative assistance from the Heritage Conservation Coordinator, grant applications are reviewed by the Heritage Conservation Council (HCC). Through the review process, HCC recommends projects for funding that are then considered for approval by the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners.  

Grant awards may be up to $75,000 and projects must be completed on a two-year timeline. Typically, one major grant project is funded each year. These Major Grant projects will be a visible testament to the ongoing value of the County’s significant conservation accomplishments. The remainder of the funds will be directed to Target Grant projects and Seed Grant projects that meet smaller and equally important projects of local organizations and qualified individuals working to conserve our heritage. In 2024, $220,000 is available for Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant awards.

Applicants must be Douglas County-based entities such as nonprofit organizations, businesses, K-12 schools, universities or any unit of local government. 

Open Space Grants

In 2024, an additional $200,000 is available for projects that enhance or support Open Space protection in Douglas County, in alignment with the developing Open Space Plan. Open Space projects should align with at least one of the following categories:

  • Permanent Conservation of Sensitive and Important Ecosystems
  • Public Access to Open Spaces  
  • Stewardship and Restoration of Native Ecosystems  
  • Education and Community Engagement with Open Space Topics

Click here to learn more about the Douglas County Open Space Plan. 

Grant Information Session

A Grant Information Session was held on January 23, 2024, from 6-7:30 pm at the Douglas County Public Works Office (3755 E 25th St, Lawrence, KS 66046). A pre-recorded version of the presentation is available to view here.

How To Apply

2024 Application Closed

The 2024 application for the Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant Program has now closed. The application and grant materials for next year will be released in early January 2025. 

Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant Information

2024 Grant Recipients

Project Title: Nourishing Communities: Native Foods for Adapting Farms

Award: $59,425

Project DescriptionIn Douglas County, our local food system is supplied by farms of diverse sizes, crops, and growing systems. Many farmers here struggle with lost crops and income during times of extended drought and flood. With this project, we will demonstrate the potential for native and perennial food crops to provide a safety net for farms, producing crops to take to market even during harsh growing seasons. This partnership will work with local producers, community gardens, and the public to plan and implement demonstration plantings of native and perennial food crops to support adapting farms in response to challenges related to climate change. We will help to build a community of growers throughout Douglas County and provide education on planting, care and sustainable harvest of edible native species and perennial foods. We will plant several (8 - 10) demonstration sites, in collaboration with Douglas County producers and the farming community, creating educational outdoor “labs” to increase the likelihood of success growing crops that take longer to establish than today’s most common food crops. The results of this collaboration may inform future farming practices in Douglas County and provide examples to our community leaders, as supportive policy reform related to sustainable farming is integrated into open space planning, climate change preparedness, and beyond. We will further support the participating farms through hands-on, educational workshops for local farmers/land stewards related to edible native plants, planning and caring for native plantings, sustainable land management, etc. These workshops and related community meetings will help to build community between local farms and community gardens that complements the relationships built through the Common Ground and Farmers Market networks, providing additional support through the transition to adapted growing spaces. Through this project, we will document the support that was significant to the participating farms, as well as successes and setbacks related to everything from establishing the crops to marketing them to the community. The results of this work and the supportive network we anticipate forming for growers in our community will reduce the risk to farms adapting to climate change in the future, in our region.

Project Title: Wakarusa Native Foodways

Award:  $35,000

Project Description: Wakarusa Native Foodways is an Indigenous food hub that provides an interactive and inclusive community learning space. Rather than simply aggregating indigenous food products, our vision is to assemble, share, and distribute indigenous food knowledge. We plan to offer in-person learning and teaching opportunities for BIPOC members of the community through a variety of educational programs promoting indigenous storytelling through the lens of native food sovereignty and sustainability. To this end, our project will create an indigenous food incubator, teaching space, and test kitchen within an established, fully-inspected and licensed facility. Programs will be recorded and archived for distribution, posterity, and preservation. Our goal with these educational courses is to allow the BIPOC community to define their own narrative within the local food system, to preserve indigenous cultural heritage and connection to the land, and to allow BIPOC folks to be further represented during the process of creating local food policy that affects them.

Project Title: Beni Israel Cemetery Preservation & Education

Award: $28,605

Project Description: We are interested in preservation, education, and access and enclosure improvements to the Beni Israel Historic Cemetery. Elements of this project include: Preservation: Restore broken or collapsed headstones. Education: Provide a sign at the Cemetery entrance with a map of the old and new plots, provide a bronze plaque with the date of National Register of Historic Places designation, provide an interpretive sign linking to the Cemetery history and genealogy resources, create a website tab on the Lawrence Jewish Community Inc site which features cemetery images, history, biographies, map and resource links, and begin an Annual Historic Tour at the site. Access and Enclosure: Upgrade the driveway and parking access, add 3 visitor benches, and add privacy trees along the north and west perimeters of the site. The overall purpose of this grant application is to make the historic Beni Israel Cemetery more accessible, for family burials as well as general public interest, and to provide awareness of its significance. The projects listed will expand awareness of the site’s connection to the founding of Eudora and the role of the Jewish community in the early settlement of Kansas. It will also further the understanding of the active presence of the minority Jewish community, historically and today in Douglas County and northeastern Kansas.

Project Title: Indigenous Lawrence: Nations, Peoples, and Place

Award: $26,320

Project Description: This proposal seeks funding to plan a much-needed expansion of the Watkins Museum’s core exhibits to incorporate the history of Indigenous cultures in Douglas County, Kansas and stories of the ongoing relationships between Indigenous peoples and the community of Lawrence. In August 2023, an opportunity to expand approaches, address Indigenous cultures in a broader way, and incorporate stories of Indigenous peoples into core exhibits arose when the museum partnered with the Kaw Nation. The Watkins Museum is the steward of two bronze plaques that once defaced In‘zhúje‘waxóbe, a prayer stone sacred to the Kaw Nation. Though the Kaw Nation retains ownership, they placed the plaques in the care of the museum and gave permission to exhibit them. The project’s goals are to 1. Represent the experiences and perspectives of Indigenous peoples in a more complete history of Douglas County and increase visitors’ understanding of the relationships between Indigenous and white Americans in our community. 2. Honor and reflect the established cultural storytelling expertise of Indigenous people and anchor museum interpretation in Native storytelling traditions and concepts of history. 3. Engage a team of tribal members and historians to advise museum staff and exhibit designers in the development of an accurate and responsible exhibit and to guide creation of exhibit content and interpretive approaches. 4. Complete a plan for the integration of Indigenous stories into the Watkins Museum’s core exhibits. The exhibit design, fabrication budget, and content outline produced in this project will provide the materials needed to pursue implementation funding. This project will allow opportunities to seek funds for implementation from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, both federal agencies, in the fall 2024 and spring 2025 grant cycles.

Project: La Yarda Public Art Memorial Project

Award: $20,000

Project Description: In 2021, Lawrence Arts Center staff member Marlo Angell teamed up with filmmaker Lourdes Kalusha-Aguirre to make a documentary called Searching for La Yarda with grant funding from Humanities Kansas. The film chronicles the history of La Yarda, a collection of housing units built by the Santa Fe railroad for Mexican-American workers and their families living in Lawrence from the 1920s-1950s, through oral histories, archival photos, and a contemporary journey to the ruins of La Yarda with the Romero family. Working with the families, the Lawrence Arts Center is creating a gallery exhibition in the summer of 2024, with funding from the Hall Center for Humanities’ Stories for All program. This proposed La Yarda Public Art Memorial Project envisions building on this momentum by creating a long-lasting celebration of the Mexican-American community near the original site and along one of Lawrence’s most popular trails, the Lawrence Loop. One of the remaining gaps of the Lawrence Loop at 8th and Delaware Street in East Lawrence is scheduled to be extended in 2024. This offers an ideal opportunity to establish a public art monument near the original site and immediately adjacent to the trail, establishing a sense of place to an area long forgotten by most people in our community that can be appreciated by those using the Loop. Through events, media, and other community promotion, our goal is to bring attention to the memorial, bring a renewed sense of place to the area once known as La Yarda, and to showcase Lawrence trails as a way for people of all ages, abilities, and interests, to use the local trail system to engage in physical activity, connect with others in the community, and learn and celebrate the history, culture, and vibrancy of the Lawrence community.

Project Title: Plymouth Church Rose Window Refurbishment

Award: $17,500

Project Description: The project is the refurbishment of the 96" diameter stained glass "rose" window that is the focus of the facade of our beautiful and historically significant 1870 church in downtown Lawrence KS. In summary, the work is to clean and re-lead the stained glass, to repair or replace the wood frame and decorative insert, and to repair the surrounding stonework. In 2009 repairs were made by Bovard Studio. Since then, there has been further deterioration of the wood insert and frame. We are currently working with Bovard Studio, recognized experts in stain glass work, for the purpose of determining the most effective steps to extend the life and function of this window decades into the future. The project deliverable will be a weather resistant window as beautiful as it was when installed 150+ years ago.

Project Title: Somos Lawrence, Being Lawrence: Enhancing Social Spaces, Doing Culture

Award: $13,000

Project Description: Since its start in 2021, Somos Lawrence has advocated for effective and culturally-informed grassroots outreach to non-English-speaking residents of Douglas County, with specific attention to Spanish speakers. We strive to build a strong community network and foster new leadership amongst first generation- Spanish-speaking families residing in Douglas County. Working closely with our partners, Somos has been able to consolidate two intergenerational Lawrence traditions, both led by low-income residents of Douglas County of Latin American origin: the Day of the Dead –a community experience of remembrance– and the Day of the Spring –a celebration of the vitality of the growing season. Funding in the last two years has brought increasing numbers, community support and diversity to these celebrations. In our move from a seed to a target grant, we aspire to extend the reach of the Day of the Dead and the Day of the Spring beyond the events themselves and into our public schools, through intergenerational educational programming. For 2024, we seek monies to: 1. Continue our efforts to consolidate the Day of the Dead and the Day of the Spring into annual traditions, enhancing opportunities for remembrance and community building amongst Spanish-speaking, low-income new residents to Douglas County. 2. Organize a series of community workshops and ‘conversatorios’ in preparation, as well as follow-ups, for each of the celebrations. ‘Conversatorios’ translate as both ‘social spaces for conversation’ and ‘acts of conversing.’ They are but one name for well-established Latin American/Latinx cultural practices, whereby people can safely share cultural legacies and practices, outside highly prescribed bureaucratic formulas or regimented space-time constraints. 3. Acknowledge the leadership capacity of our most active volunteers and school parents by assigning a small number of them the formal role of “promotores culturales.” They will be responsible for helping to organize and lead the workshops and conversatorios associated with our signature events. Additionally, working closely with partners from the Lawrence school district, we are extending the space and practices of conversatorios and workshops led by “promotoras culturales,” to a school setting. 

Project Title: Sowers Union Cemetery Restoration

Award: $10,000

Project Description: For the grant funding, the goal is to support the ongoing preservation of Sowers Union Cemetery, one of Douglas County’s oldest cemeteries, through the resetting, stabilizing, leveling, and cleaning of monuments. Located on a high point in southwest Douglas County, the cemetery is one and one-half mile southeast of the Sowers Crawford Farms Historic District – a location listed on the Kansas Registry and National Registry of Historic Places. Sowers Union Cemetery was established in 1865 and is still used for burials today. The cemetery provides a distinctive example of an early settlement cemetery with the historic elements retained over time. The monuments provide an extensive collection of varying styles of memorial art. The settlers understood the importance of remembering family members and the heritage of each through memorial and visual arts. In Sowers Union Cemetery this is often represented in monuments for children, even for the stone of John Oxley (age 12), the family needed to move on in the wagon, yet they carved a native limestone marker for his grave. Given the project focus to restore monuments, the standards of the National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior will be followed in the restoration efforts

Project Title: Youth Access to Textile Arts

Award: $4,150

Project Description: “Youth Access to Textile Arts” is a seed project that seeks to expand Quilt Capital of Kansas textile arts programming to youth (6th grade – 12th grade). In February 2019, the Kansas Senate passed Resolution 1711 designating Baldwin City the Quilt Capital of Kansas due to the community’s rich cultural tradition of quilting. In partnership with Quilters’ Paradise, the Lumberyard Arts Center initiated Quilt Capital of Kansas textile arts programing. Now in its third year and with the success of adult programming, increased conversation between the partners recognized the need to initiate an intentional heritage textile arts program for youth as a means to preserve textile arts skills and knowledge through future generations. The purpose of “Youth Access to Textile Arts” is to 1) create awareness of this new educational programming to youth and their families and; 2) provide experiential learning opportunities to teens, primarily within the USD 348 school district, to the world of textile arts through hands-on classes and opportunities to share creations with the community through a variety of means. With grant funding, monthly free youth textile arts classes will include both beginning and intermediate skills that blend techniques of creating with fabrics through the heritage arts of quilting, crocheting, knitting, weaving and embroidery. Key to the youth program is intergenerational learning and integration of human stories into the art of textiling. During the summer, youth will be invited to Wednesday community “open sew”. In an effort to reach our target audience, we are partnering with the Baldwin City Library. Publicity and marketing will be further disseminated through the Lumberyard Arts Center’s long standing youth arts partnership with USD 348 that reaches all individuals in the Baldwin City School District.

Project Title: Nature Art Workshops at Prairie Park Nature Center

Awarded: $3,500

Project Description: Prairie Park Nature Center's 25th anniversary will be held in September 2024. As part of this important community celebration, I'm proposing offering a series of five, three-hour Nature Art workshops to connect the community in a new way with our local heritage tallgrass prairie ecosystem. An additional benefit of this proposal will be the launch of the new, 1500 square foot Human|Nature outdoor classroom and event venue that is currently being built by my designbuild architecture students at KU. Each session will be hosted at this new outdoor classroom. The target participants are adults, and each workshop is limited to 15 participants. The cost per workshop is $20. The artists and workshops will take place in late August and early September, and include Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emeritus - Prairie Poetry Workshop, Karl Ramberg, stonemason - Native Stone carving Workshop, Mona Cliff, indigenous public artist - Prairie Plant Cyanotype Workshop, Terri Harper, artist and former instructor of design at JCCC - Nature Sketchbook Journal Workshop, and Suzan Hampton, environmental designer and photographer - Prairie Plant Photography.

Project Title: Prairie City Cemetery Preservation & Heritage Project- Phase I: Tombstone Cleaning

Award: $2,500

Project Description: This project is Phase I of a planned four-phase Prairie City Cemetery (PCC) Preservation and Heritage project involving Prairie City Cemetery Association (PCCA) and Santa Fe Trail Historical Society of Douglas County (SFTHS). The project has two goals. One is to achieve the strategic preservation of historic PCC. The second is to tell the story of Prairie City, its interred, and their little-known yet important roles in Territorial Kansas and early Douglas County history. In Phase I, tombstones will be cleaned and preserved. Information about the interred will be collected, updated, and shared. The funding request is primarily related to the preservation process. In 2023, an assessment of the 750+ stones in the cemetery was completed. Two hundred seventy-five (275) tombstones were identified as moderately heavy to extremely soiled. These stones need to be cleaned soon to prevent further deterioration. Once stones are cleaned, current records will be updated as etchings are read. Updated information, including the name and location of each interred will be printed and posted inside the glass encased area of the kiosk at PCC.  This information will also be placed in The Kansas Room (history room) of the Baldwin City Public Library at the end of this project. 

Past Recipients