Byways 2021: A project of the Scenic Byways Coalition and America’s Byways Resource Center
Jan
22
2007

Historic Theme and Collaboration Drive Buses and Awareness to Byways

In 2007, four byways will become the ribbon of roads that bring heritage tourists traveling aboard American Bus Association (ABA) member motorcoaches to French and Indian War destinations in New York and Pennsylvania. The ABA has named French and Indian War Commemorations in New York among its Top 100 Events in North America for 2007. The opportunity for motorcoaches to cruise along historic and scenic byways to reach historic sites and events from May to October will have a positive economic impact on the region.

This recognition by the ABA and the opportunity to enjoy a portion of the estimated $159,000 generated annually per motorcoach has come about through a partnership of three National Scenic Byways: the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, Lakes to Locks Passage and the Mohawk Towpath, along with the state-designated Revolutionary Byway and historic forts, and New York’s French and Indian War 250th Anniversary Commission. The recognition granted these byways and byway-based historic sites by the American Bus Association is a milestone and model for byways’ collaboration. Together, we are promoting our shared resources to achieve an innovative experience for heritage travelers and a positive impact on our local and state economies.

Development of the French and Indian War theme is assisted by a $187,000 National Scenic Byway grant to the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, Inc. which provides for the design and installation of 21 French and Indian War theme interpretive panels at such sites as Fort Ontario in Oswego, Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown, Fort La Presentation in Ogdensburg, Fort Stanwix in Rome, and Fort William Henry in Lake George. The grant will also underwrite a resource inventory and the development of a brochure and guidebook to promote the French and Indian War travel theme.

The Great Lakes Seaway Trail Interpretive Plan designates a series of multi-themed interpretive panels for attractions of all types. The series has been well-received for two major reasons: the panels provide site-specific visitor contact with a site’s legends, lore, facts and information 24 hours a day, year-round; and the panels create the impetus to travel on along the byway to other historic, natural, architectural and agricultural sites. Guidebooks and maps presenting an integrated collection of sites also accomplish the objective of multiple stops.

Among the interpretive techniques we see working well at the forts, battlefields, and non-military historic sites are costumed interpreters and the opportunity for visitors to enjoy a personal experience of living history along the Great lakes Seaway Trail which spans 518 miles through 11 counties in two states.

My vision of the future for America’s Scenic Byways is a balanced mix of living history, i.e., human contact-based, and inanimate tools for interpreting our heritage resources. A mix of funding sources - from federal grants to corporate sponsors will also be required to implement programming (for ideas see the Driving Financial Sustainability for America’s Byways Organizations CD). And as my colleague Dr. Ruth Hawkins suggests, regional and national partnerships, such as the French and Indian War collaboration are key to creating the “critical mass” attractive to tourists and funders and to catalyze byway-based community development.

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Teresa Mitchell
About the author: Teresa Mitchell is President and CEO of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, Inc. and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Foundation. She has been the Executive Director of the byway organization promoting travel along New York's freshwater shoreline since 1986.

Read more about Teresa Mitchell


One Response to “Historic Theme and Collaboration Drive Buses and Awareness to Byways”

  1. Derrick Crandall Says:

    You have it right! I’ve seen some of the panels already developed and they really add to the byways experience. Gazing out over the water, the idea of British ships emerging from the morning mist came alive! And the discussion of some fo the town features still in existence — buildings and more — really made me think about the forces that shaped our nation in its early years. Ideally, the written info will be combined with downloadable messages — narration, perhaps pictures and music — similar to that done for the Lewis and Clark commemoration(see http://lewisandclarktrail.com/elearning.htm for some great examples of podcasting/MP3 content).