America's Byways Attracting Global Attention
America's Byways, a collection of nearly one hundred premier routes in the nation, is managed by the US National Scenic Byways Program and America's Byways Resource Center. Byways carrying national designation and All American Road designation are part of this collection. Like many groups, the National Scenic Byways Organization (NSBO) invested time and effort into developing a well organized, informative Web site. Three years ago, a very interesting thing happened because of that NSBO Web site.
On the Japanese island of Hokkaido, the northernmost of the four main islands, a group of government officials and planners were viewing the site. Their interest piqued by what they saw, a delegation was formed and in May, 2003, the group from Hokkaido attended the National Scenic Byways Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. While in the US, they also traveled several of America's Byways and paid a visit to America's Byways Resource Center in Duluth, MN. In the summer or 2003, former Byways Program Director, Shana Baker, traveled to Hokkaido for an information exchange as Japan's new scenic byways program began to take shape.
The Japanese Federal Government granted the Hokkaido Development Engineering Center (HDEC) a two-year contract to initiate and establish a pilot program of byways on the island. The US National Scenic Byways Program and America's Byways Resource Center were used as models.
Current director of America's Byways Resource Center, Henry Hanka, was recently invited to Hokkaido to continue the information exchange started with Shana Baker's visit in 2003. Hanka met with several volunteer groups, toured the island and saw first-hand evidence of the successfully emerging scenic byways program. The Hokkaido byway program planners, working in close relationship with the US National Scenic Byways Program, envision the day when there are formal international exchanges between the US and Japanese byways.
The Web site that started it all, www.byways.org, may have new eyes viewing it at this moment. Stayed tuned; another country may be heard from at any time.
(Some information for this article from <em>Vistas</em>, November/December 2004 issue)