As anyone who loves history knows, Kansas native Dwight D. Eisenhower was a celebrated World War II general prior to becoming the 34th president of the United States. His list of achievements is long, indeed. As Supreme Commander, he led American soldiers on D-Day and as president he sponsored and signed the Civil Rights Bill and connected the entire country via the interstate highway system.
Following the old Highway 40 on its parallel path with the Butterfield Overland Trail, highway planners developed a route that would bring travelers right past WaKeeney. Today, as travelers exit I-70 at WaKeeney’s west exit, Exit 127, they’ll find themselves at the entrance to our city’s beautiful memorial to the man behind the highway, Eisenhower Park.
The park hugs the southern edge of WaKeeney and is easily accessed via a paved driveway that marks the borders of the park. There’s plenty of space for your pets to explore and kids will be able to stretch their legs after enjoying lunch at one of the many covered picnic tables.
In 2006, a retired Navy F-14 Tomcat Fighter Jet was added to the park to represent the many military men and women who have fought for this country. The Tomcat, at 62-feet and 40,000 pounds, was dismantled in Ohio and packed onto two trucks (the wings, tailpiece, and flight controls in one, the fuselage on another), which took up nearly two full lanes of the highway.
When the jet arrived in town a team of four retired military men from Virginia rebuilt the jet right in the center of Downtown WaKeeney and many people stopped by to see their work in progress. After it was completed the Tomcat was towed to its’ permanent home in Eisenhower Park, where it can be seen by everyone.
Today, when you pull off of Exit 127 in WaKeeney, you are able to visit this monument to the military in a park that memorializes one of our country’s greatest commanders.