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Former monument chief had big tourism impact
October 08, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Ken Mabery

For the past eight years, Ken Mabery has been familiar face as he promoted tourism in the community from his position as Superintendent of Scotts Bluff National Monument.

But all things change, as Mabery announced he has accepted the position of Park Superintendent at Colorado National Monument.

Mabery, who’s from Colorado, had accepted a special detail assignment last spring with the Colorado National Monument outside of Grand Junction. The temporary position was to run from April through August before he was offered the job on a full-time basis.

During his tenure in Gering, Mabery was always a strong supporter and promoter of tourism throughout the area. In 2009, he was the third winner of the Tourism Buddy Award, presented by the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau. It’s presented annually to those who have made major contributions to the regional tourism industry.

“Ken has been one of the best superintendents the monument has had,” said Karla Niedan-Streeks, executive director of the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau. “He did an extremely good job of getting our communities to reembrace our monument through lots of education and living history programs. Because of that, we’ve taken back pride of ownership in the monuments in our own back yard.”
Niedan-Streeks said Mabery has also been a visionary, working not only with monument related activities, but also downtown redevelopment and with the Western Nebraska Tourism Coalition to promote the entire region as a destination.

In addition to working with Gering tourism, Mabery extended his involvement out to embrace the entire area.

“Ken was a member of my tourism board,” said Brenda Leisy, director of the Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau. “He was very passionate about tourism. What impressed me the most was his willingness to really learn about a project and share those details with other people in tourism.”

Mabery’s expertise was needed as a liaison with the federal government when Gering sought to extend the Gering pathway and bike trail westward to the Monument. Mabery also researched possible grant funding to extend the pathway farther through Mitchell Pass.
“When it came to government regulations, Ken was very helpful in moving the project along,” Leisy said. “We could count on him to relay the proper message so everyone would understand the impact of any given project.”

Another group Mabery was instrumental in organizing was Platte Valley Attractions (PVA). Group members include tourism venue owners who come together to promote themselves and what the area has to offer visitors.

PVA member Cher Maybee of Barn Anew Bed and Breakfast said Mabery really appreciated the area and its history and worked well with others. “He was really good at coming up with ideas and promoting them,” she said.

One of the other PVA organizers was Anne James, director of the Riverside Discovery Center. She remembered how Mabery would always reach out to the community to see how the Park Service could be beneficial for what other people were doing.

“He did so much in so many different areas,” James said. “He worked with other parks in the area to help promote tourism. He was great on collaboration. His theory was that if we can do it, we can do it better as partners.”

PVA is responsible for coloring books and maps that are distributed at the monument and other locations around the area. They also stock motel racks with the latest brochures highlighting area attractions as well as outlining “circle tours” that might interest visitors.
Since its formation with a local focus, PVA has expanded to include venues in Kimball, Ft. Laramie and Chimney Rock.

Mabery also helped organize a partnership called Children and Nature in Our Parks, stressing the benefit and importance for young people to get outside and enjoy the national parks. The partnership also plans quarterly nature-related events in schools throughout the Panhandle.

He even had the opportunity to present the group’s mission to his superiors at the National Park Service regional offices on Omaha.
Lesley Gaunt is a Ranger at Scotts Bluff National Monument and has worked with Mabery since her arrival four years ago.

“Ken worked in a different building than I do, but I did know he was very active in all the tourism groups,” Gaunt said. “He wanted to make sure the monument and the National Park Service was represented as much as possible in local activities like parades and presentations in the schools. And he was always excited when new events came up, like last year’s Chautauqua event in Gering. He liked to be involved in those things.”

Everyone who spoke of him said Mabery has been a great addition to the community in every way – and he would be missed.
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