Byways 2021 - Focus on the Future
The National Scenic Byways Program is gearing up to celebrate its 15th anniversary. The celebration will be called, Byways 2021, to reflect a strong focus on the future. America’s Byways Resource Center, located in Duluth, MN, calls this, “a golden opportunity to give the Program new momentum, to showcase its considerable achievements, nurture new champions and outline new Byway initiatives with a re-energized national coalition and grassroots support.”
According to American Recreation Coalition (ARC) president and CEO, Derrick Crandall, the National Scenic Byways Program has a long history of interest and support reaching back to early 1966 when Dr. David Levin proposed developing a national system of scenic roads and byways. In 1970, Crandall joined the effort to pursue a byway system, but found that effort stalled due to the energy crunch.
Finally, in 1988 the first major scenic byway proposal was mapped out. Then President George HW Bush branded the collection, “the roads Americans love”. By December of 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) legislation was passed and America had a new approach to transportation that looked beyond the highways. The Scenic Byways Program was born.
Now, fifteen years later, the Scenic Byways Program has a history to be proud of, boasting 126 nationally designated routes across America. The Program’s future includes shaping the next fifteen years through building new coalitions and revitalizing existing ones, capitalizing on past successes, harnessing technology to make byway stories readily available through such things as iPods and MP3 players, defining the next steps for byways and seeking and supporting new champions.
In December, Byways 2021 will host a forum to listen to input from byway leaders from across the country. That input will help guide the coalition toward developing a consensus on a vision for America’s Byways and the National Scenic Byways Program over the next 15 years. Already Minnesota is working on a spin-off from the Scenic Byways Program called the Scenic Bikeways.
Minnesota is home to seven nationally designated scenic byways; one is an All-American Road, one is a multi-state national scenic byway and five are nationally designated scenic byways. Well known here in the Brainerd Lakes area is the newest nationally designated route, the Paul Bunyan National Scenic Byway, which travels over fifty four miles of county roads, primarily in northern Crow Wing County, encircling the Whitefish Chain of Lakes and passing along the north side of Pelican Lake. The Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway is managed by the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association’s ten member board. The Byway received state designation in June of 1998 and earned the prestigious national designation in September, 2005.
For more information about Byways 2021, visit byways.org.
Some information taken from America’s Byways Resource Center Tele-Workshop Fact Sheet, February 1, 2006.