The Mount Mitchell Prairie Guards are a grassroots group of local residents and their supporters who have been responsible for all of the improvements to Mount Mitchell since the Kansas Historical Society relinquished ownership in 2006. They take their name from the Wabaunsee Prairie Guards, the famous Free-state militia formed by the Beecher Bible and Rifle Colony in 1856.
Designated a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit in 2009, The Prairie Guards mission is to preserve, promote and protect the cultural heritage of the Northern Flint Hills. In addition to developing and operating Mount Mitchell, the Guards have iniated other projects such as organizing the art exhibition Homesteads of the Free, the Art of Maude J. Mitchell in conjunction with the Wabaunsee County Historical Society and Symphony in the Flint Hills. In 2011 they were responsible for bringing Integrated Roadside Management (IRVM) pioneer Daryl Smith to Kansas to speak about preserving our prairie grass roadsides.
With over 1,500 hours of volunteer labor, they have rebuilt Mount Mitchell's access road, created an attractive parking area and kiosk, laid out two miles of walking trails, erected new fencing, installed picnic tables and benches, and are preserving the prairie by controlling woody encroachment. They recentley installed the first in a series of interpretive signage that will inform visitors about the park's connections with Native American history and culture, exploration and westward migration, Bleeding Kansas, the Underground Railroad, and the Exoduster movement.
The Prairie Guards are Charter Donor's of Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area. Through their efforts Mount Mitchell and the Topeka/Fort Riley Road have been recognized by the National Park Service's Network To Freedom program as authenticated Underground Railroad sites.
The Prairie Guards are fulfilling the wishes of W. I. Mitchell (Will), Mount Mitchell's donor, creating a public park where schoolchildren and visitors can learn the stories of the men and women who made Kansas a free state in the struggle to end slavery.
The Prairie Guards are gratefull fo the working relationships they have formed with the Kansas State Historical Society, Wabaunsee Township Board, Wabaunsee County Commissioners, Westar Energy Green Team, Kansas Trails Council, Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area, Pottawatomie Economic Development Council, Wabaunsee County Economic Development Committee, Flint Hills Regional Council, Flint Hills Discovery Center, The Native Stone Scenic Byway Committee, The National Park Service, The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, The Citizens Band Potawatomi Nation, Symphony in the Flint Hills, Kansas Explorers Club, Oregon/California Trail Association, Konza Prairie, and USD 329.
The Prairie Guards have made the following improvements to Mount Mitchell:
Organized and supervised over 1,600 volunteer hours for park development and prairie restoration.
Built a new fence along the southern boundary of the park.
Erected a welcome and 'in progress' sign at the entrance to the park.
Installed attractive commercial grade park benches and picnic tables.
Installed a Park Service style sign interpreting the historic Topeka Fort Riley Road.
Worked with the Wabaunsee Township Board to clear the right-of-way of Mitchell Prairie Lane of trees and brush and then graded and replanted disturbed areas.
In cooperation with the Wabaunsee Township Board, the Prairie Guard's rebuilt Mitchell Prairie Lane with new culverts and gravel.
Hired heavy equipment operators to clear trees and move earth along a portion of the eastern boundary of the park in preparation for erecting a new fence and building a parking area.
Hired local labor and purchased stone from a nearby quarry for the construction of the parking area's impressive retaining wall.
Constructed an information kiosk with materials supplied by the Westar Green Team.
Working with the Kansas Trails Council we surveyed and built two miles of walking trails in the park, which the Prairie Guard's mow and maintain.
Organized and conducted controlled annual springtime prairie burns for the health of the prairie and safety of visitors.
Under direction of the KSHS we relocated the monument to the Beecher Bible and Rifle Colony, which had been placed on top of a Native American grave.
Hosted wildflower, geology and bird walks with the Kansas Native Plant Society, and the US Soil Conservation Service.
Held annual open houses with the owners of the William Mitchell Farm.
Through efforts of the Prairie Guard's, the Historical marker at the westbound rest stop on Interstate 70 near Paxico was updated with the new text mentioning the Mt. Mitchell Heritage Prairie as a site commemorating the Beecher Bible and Rifle Colony.
Filed the paperwork and performed all of the tasks necessary to achieve the following distinctions for the park:
Became a Charter Donor of the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area.
Received official designation by the National Park Service as an authenticated Network to Freedom Underground Railroad site.
Initiated the official adoption of the name 'Mitchell Prairie Lane', the park's access road, by the Wabaunsee County Commissioners.
Achieved Star Attraction designation from the Freedoms Frontier National Heritage Area.
Are in the process of applying for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Successfully lobbied the Native Stone Scenic Byway committee to extend the byway to include Mt. Mitchell.
Applied for and received sponsorship from the Flint Hills Resource and Development Council.
Assembled and organized the art exhibition Homesteads of the Free, the Art of Maude J. Mitchell in conjunction with the Wabaunsee County Historical Society and Symphony in the Flint Hills.
Hosted the 2010 National Park Service Network to Freedom Conference.
Worked with the Kansas State Archeologist to maintain the integrity of the Native American burial mound on the property.
Worked the Kansas State Historical Society to authenticate the swales and ruts from the Topeka Ft. Riley Road that passes through the park.
Applied for and received Kansas Department of Transportation tourist attraction status to erect brown attraction signs on Highway 99 directing travelers to the park.