Byways 2021: A project of the Scenic Byways Coalition and America’s Byways Resource Center
Dec
19
2006

15th Anniversary of National Scenic Byways Program Marked in Washington

Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2006)- The 15th Anniversary of the National Scenic Byways Program was marked by top public and private sector leaders in Washington, DC on December 11, 2006. Called “A Celebration and A Look Ahead,” the celebration included an afternoon symposium at the historic Stephen Decatur House featuring byways pioneers and representatives of organizations that support and sustain the National Scenic Byways Program today. The evening portion of the celebration was held in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s hearing room in the Rayburn Office Building and drew Congressional champions, Department of Transportation officials past and present and national Scenic Byways supporters. Thirteen key byways advocates were presented first-ever “Byways Pioneer Awards.”

Common themes emerged in a day of both looking back and moving forward:

  • The National Scenic Byways Program is a success because it empowers and unites grassroots efforts.

 

  • America’s Byways are integral to connecting Americans and visitors to the heartland of our shared rich and diverse history, culture, values and natural resources.

  • The program warrants new efforts to increase public awareness of opportunities along the byways.

  • The merit-based FHWA byways grant program is a small investment that has provided huge returns and is critical to the future of the National Scenic Byways Program.

  • Americans will always be on the move, and scenic byways have the power to make the journey as important as the destination.

For a picture gallery of the days’ events, go to: http://www.funoutdoors.com/taxonomy/view/or/83

“From the beginning,” Rick Capka, Federal Highway Administrator related, “the Byways program was community based. Communities are involved in the preservation, protection, promotion and pride of their byways. The strength of the program is in the local advocates that serve as stewards of their byways.” He applauded the partnerships spawned by the byways program, noting especially that the National Geographic Society will release the third edition of its Guide to America’s Scenic Highways and Byways in the spring of 2007 and, for the first time, all designated America’s Byways will be included and the program’s logo will be on the cover.

Mr. Capka noted the great accomplishments of the National Scenic Byways Grant Program “which has provided a huge return on its $275 million investment in 2,100 grassroots projects in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.” Funding projects which assist byway communities market, sustain and enhance their byways over the next 15 years is critical to the future of the Byways program.

A panel of three byways activists, who were involved with the creation and early history of the National Scenic Byways Program, took the audience on a “Drive Down Memory Lane.” While historic byways images flashed on a screen, Kevin Heanue, Federal Highway Administration (ret.), Derrick Crandall, President of the American Recreation Coalition and a member of the President’s Council on American’s Outdoors (PCAO), and Sally Pearce, long-time Scenic Byways Coordinator for the Colorado DOT, shared the highlights of Scenic Byway’s first 15 years.

“The program didn’t happen by accident,” Mr. Crandall noted, but rather resulted from the vision and hard work of key byways supporters in the Scenic Byways Coalition, the Department of Transportation and Congress. Especially key to the program was the overture by highway interests to the President’s Commission in 1986 and the efforts of Senator Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Jim Oberstar in 1989 to require a byways study by FHWA. Another key advocate was then-president George H. W. Bush, who called byways “the roads Americans love” and signed ISTEA in December, 1991, and thus creating the National Scenic Byways Program.

The first $10 million in byways grants were awarded in 1992. The program has been re-authorized twice since then and there are now 126 scenic byways in 40 states in the America’s Byways collection. $130 million in grants has been distributed and the current program, authorized by SAFETEA-LU in 2005, represents a 40% increase in funding for the program through 2009.

John Horsley, Executive Director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, moderated a panel on the value of America’s Byways. “Selling the sizzle of RV travel means getting people excited,” said Phil Ingrassia, Vice President of Communications for the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association, “and nothing sizzles more than America’s Scenic Byways.” The enhancements that the investment in Scenic Byways provide, like pull-offs and signage, and the unity that ties communities and attractions together have a direct benefit to our members. When the journey is as enjoyable as the destination, the RV industry wins”, he concluded.

Peter Brink, Vice President of Program Services at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recalled that the National Trust, which had created the National Main Street Program in 1980, enthusiastically supported the creation of the National Scenic Byways Program as a logical extension of their efforts to revitalize America’s Main Streets while preserving their historic and cultural values. Mr. Brink cautioned that supporters must continue to vigorously oppose Congressional earmarks which jeopardize the grassroots genius of the National Scenic Byways Program.

Kevin Fry, President of Scenic America, joined others in stressing the need to increase public awareness of the National Scenic Byways which allow Americans to get in touch with their history, culture and natural resources. The program has been successful, he observed, because “it requires the marshaling and mobilizing of a diverse band of people, organizations and agencies all devoted to protecting and enhancing the very best of America.”

“Scenic Byways prove that preservation and visitation can go hand-in-hand,” according to Rick Webster, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Travel Industry Association of America. Scenic Byways are now well-integrated into state tourism and marketing efforts and have become important destinations for international travelers looking for authentic experiences in the American heartland.

Richard Coon, President of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association moderated a panel discussion of Byways accomplishments. Rob Draper, team leader for Byways, Bike-Ped Trails and Enhancements for the Federal Highway Administration said that two-thirds of the 2,180 Scenic Byways Grant projects since 1992 have been under $100,000, reflecting the truly grassroots nature of the program. These projects have funded resource protection, large-scale corridor improvements such as visitor centers, signage and brochures and the website byways.org, which now averages 14 million hits a month. Mr. Draper’s vision of the future is that the America’s Byways collection gains the emblematic stature of the nation’s national parks, forests and wildlife refuges.

Dean Reeder, National Tourism Director of the National Park Service related that there are 93 national park units on or near America’s Byways. The National Park Service is now fully aware of the power of the Byways program to benefit national park gateway communities, to increase access and visitation and to highlight common themes especially among lesser-known national parks.

The Director of America’s Byways Resource Center (ABRC), Michelle Johnson, explained that ABRC was created in 1998 and offers services and products to byways that help them realize community-driven visions, develop identities, and deliver authentic experiences. Ms. Johnson talked about the fourth national byways conference to be held in May 2007. Ms. Johnson remarked that common language and values have developed among byways communities over the first 15 years and are now shared by the public and private national byways partners: passion, commitment, partnerships and cooperation, community, valuing the journey, and awareness of shared culture and history.

Two long-time byways proponents, Jim Santini of the National Tour Association, and Kym Murphy of The Walt Disney Company, closed the afternoon session on a high-energy note. Mr. Murphy related the commitment of Walt Disney to promoting the values intrinsic to America’s Byways. Noting the challenge of transferring appreciation of these values to the youngest Americans, Mr. Murphy sees an opportunity for Disney’s Imagineers to partner with Scenic Byways leaders to explore ways to engage young people in the magic of the nation’s byways.

Mr. Santini praised Rep. Jim Oberstar as a true friend and driving force behind the creation of the National Scenic Byways Program in 1991. He urged the assembled byways supporters to work vigorously together to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity for the future of the National Scenic Byways Program provided by Mr. Oberstar’s appointment as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Symposium participants reassembled that the Rayburn House Office Building for a reception in honor of the Byways’ 15th Anniversary and presentation of the 2006 Byways Pioneer Awards. Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, welcomed a large audience by recalling the creation of the Scenic Byways Coalition in 1989 which was “united in our advocacy for a national effort to identify, protect and enhance routes that told America’s stories. Its members to this day are united in their diversity, representing organizations in the transportation, conservation, tourism, recreation, historic preservation and economic development communities.”

Mr. Moe recognized a number of the evening’s special guests: U.S. Representative Jim Oberstar, soon to be Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and early champion of the National Scenic Byways Program; U.S. Representative Tom Petri, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines and a great advocate for trails and byways; former Secretary of Transportation and House Transportation Committee Chairman, Norman Mineta; Dale Bosworth, Chief of the U. S. Forest Service and Federal Highway Administrator, Richard Capka.

Roger Dow, President of the Travel Industry Association of America, introduced Representative Jim Oberstar who spoke with humor and affection of his long association with the National Scenic Byway Program. Mr. Oberstar then welcomed Rick Capka, Federal Highway Administrator who delivered a congratulatory message from Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters. “I enjoyed working on the National Scenic Byways Program while I was Federal Highway Administrator,” she said. “Now, as Secretary, I look forward to what we can achieve together in the years ahead.”

Susan Pikrallidas, Vice President for Public Affairs of AAA, presented the first Byways Pioneer Awards, recognizing the contributions of 13 key National Scenic Byways supporters, from its early days to this 15th anniversary. 2006 honorees are:

 

President George H. W. Bush

U.S. Representative James L. Oberstar
U. S. Representative Thomas E. Petri
United States Senator Lamar Alexander
United States Senator John D. Rockefeller IV

Andrew H. Card, Jr. Secretary of Transportation,1992-93
Federico F. Pena, Secretary of Transportation, 1993-97
Rodney E. Slater, Secretary of Transportation, 1997-2001
Norman Y. Mineta, Secretary of Transportation 2001-2006
Mary E. Peters, Secretary of Transportation 2006-
J. Richard Capka, Federal Highway Administrator 2006-

Carlton Robinson, Executive Vice President of the Highway Users Federation, retired
Thomas Edick, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Lands Program, retired

 

The Byways Pioneer Awards are jointly sponsored by the National Scenic Byway Foundation and the Scenic Byways Coalition.

Members of the National Scenic Byways Coalition:

AAA
AASHTO
Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
American Association of Museums
American Highway Users Alliance
American Motorcyclist Association
America Outdoors
American Planning Association
American Recreation Coalition
American Society of Landscape Architects
Garden Clubs of America
Good Sam Club
National Alliance of Gateway Communities
National Association of Counties
National Association of Regional Councils
National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
National Forest Foundation
National Forest Recreation Association
National Geographic Society
National Marine Manufacturers Association
National Park Foundation
National Park Hospitality Association
National Recreation and Park Association
National Ski Areas Association
National Tour Association
National Trust for Historic Preservation
National Wildlife Refuge Association
Outdoor Advertising Association of America
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
Scenic America
Southeast Tourism Policy Council
Travel Industry Association/National Council of State Tourism Directors
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Western States Tourism Policy Council

 

Eighteen national organizations sponsored the symposium and celebration.

 

Gold Partners

America’s Byways Resource Center
American Recreation Coalition

 

Silver Partners

AAA
American Association of State Highway
and Transportation Officials
American Highway Users Alliance
American Petroleum Institute
American Society of Landscape Architects
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Infrastructure Corporation of America (ICA)
National Marine Manufacturers Association
National Tour Association
National Trust for Historic Preservation
New World Tours
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
U.S. Chamber of Commerce

 

Bronze Partners

American Motorcyclist Association
National Scenic Byway Foundation