ENID, Okla. — Enid native Bob Klemme, the man who marked the Chisholm Trail and pushed to have that part of Plains history designated nationally, saw his quest come close to being finalized just before his death.
National Park Service has determined the Chisholm and Great Western trails meet the criteria to become National Historic Trails, according to a press release.
Klemme, who died Tuesday, June 25, 2019, worked for almost 20 years to get the Chisholm and Great Western trails designated as National Historic Trails, and spent seven years marking the Oklahoma section of the Chisholm Trail. Funeral arrangements for Klemme are pending with Henninger~Hinson Funeral Home.
Bob Klemme was known for marking Oklahoma’s portion of the Chisholm Trail with hundreds of signposts, an endeavor that took seven years to complete and required sifting through government records more than a century old.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., announced recently NPS made the determination of the trail in a final feasibility study submitted to Congress after a request from Moran.
“I am pleased to have partnered with a coalition of Kansans in working to conserve these trails that are foundational for many Kansas communities and of national historic significance,” Moran said in the release. “Designating these trails will not require federal land acquisition and participation by private property owners is strictly voluntary. I look forward to continuing our work as we begin the process of passing legislation to officially designate these trails.”
The Chisholm Trail started in the 1860s and was used through the 1880s, providing a path for thousands of cattle that were driven from Texas to railheads in Kansas. The city of Enid was established along a portion of the trail, with the trail crossing U.S. 81 about one-third of a mile south of Fox Drive where it crosses to the northeast, then recrossing to the northwest at about the overpass on South Van Buren.
Marcy Jarrett, director of Visit Enid, said this national designation will impact Enid similar to how the Chisholm Trail 150th Partnership did: Through recognition, since the partnership helped bring attention to the trail in a state and regional sense.
“Being able to extend that to more of a national reach broadens the audience that will be exposed to information about Enid and the history of the area,” Jarrett said. “So what it means is a larger audience that will know Enid and more partners and larger partners to help promote Enid.”
When Congress’ $300,000 feasibility study began in March 2009, Klemme took two National Park Service employees along the trail. When the study was completed in 2015, Klemme took it upon himself to get as many people as possible to write letters to NPS during a 60-day period for public comment on the trails’ designation.
Over four years after the letters were sent to congress, the Senate’s FY2019 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies report directed the service to “work expeditiously to complete the study in a timely fashion and report back to the Committee on any impediments to completion.”
On April 19, Moran urged U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to submit the final feasibility study to Congress for designating the Chisholm and Great Western cattle trails as National Historic Trails, according to the release.
Now that the trails have been designated by NPS, Congress can enact legislation that would officially designate the trails while ensuring the protection of private property rights, according to the release.
“It’s an important recognition of a very impactful piece of history, it was the I-35 of its day, made many things possible and saved the economy of Texas after the Civil War,” Jarrett said. “It’s a story that needs to be told so that other generations understand the long-lasting impact and the magnitude of the trail.”