Stamford’s selectboard voted on September 13 to join the bid to have Vermont Route 100 designated as a National Scenic byway, joining Whitingham, Wilmington, Dover, and a dozen other towns along the route for the prestigious promotional marketing label, leaving only Readsboro behind. One has to wonder what all of this activity means and what strategy it employs to garner higher tourist visitation.
Also on September 13, the state of Vermont held their annual National Scenic Byway Summit in Manchester, at historic Hildene. There were several speakers on a variety of byway issues such as the current reduction in transportation enhancement grants, the commitment of the Vermont Tourism Department to step up promoting Vermont’s byways as some of the most scenic travel routes in America through travel show attendance, website visibility in the National Scenic Byway System, and local brochure distribution, partnering with private businesses and local chambers of commerce. The Vermont Transportation Department remains committed to assist with grants for signs, kiosks, historic markers, and descriptive plaques.
There were also sessions concerning the thousands of volunteers and some dozens of paid employees from state offices across the country who have jumped on board to keep local promotional efforts alive. They are keeping the national networking going through brochure distributions, websites, and related links for travelers, new real time electronic application programs that allow visitors to access what is along their route of travel while they are actually traveling down the road, as well as through several hard copy and computer generated discount programs. Even private-sector companies have gotten involved to both promote various scenic byways and to help advertise businesses along the various byway routes.
A National Scenic Byway Foundation, formed over a decade ago and once nearly inactive, has had a new revitalization of activities. They will help the resource coordination efforts between byway organizations, state and federal agencies, and businesses. They will also lobby Congress for more funding for the planning and execution of byway promotional efforts, as well as for the continued funding for programs from the US Department of Transportation. Those programs provide for signs, kiosks, descriptive plaques, scenic overview pull-offs, and picnic areas.
One repeated mantra at the summit was that the National Scenic Byway System is a dynamic approach to marketing independent tourism travel.
It is not a regulatory system or agency. It is not designed in any way to be used for regulating business growth or determining land use.
Rather, it is more akin to having a big brother partner for the local chambers of commerce to spread the good word about the scenic beauty that exists along particular routes of travel.
The destination traveler is once again being told that there are great things to see right out there on the road, not just at the big destination attraction. While the early days of automotive travel put the motorist on the road, the later years sent them to specific places to the exclusion of by-chance stops or experiences.
The National Scenic Byway System will represent a combination of old and new modes of travel, never ignoring the big destinations, but always letting travelers know there is more to see along the way. It would seem a new independence of thought is being born in America along the road as well as in those chain stores, now you can even build your own burgers.
In the computer age, that seems to demand our independence of thought and job creation, so too comes a new informational resource which helps enhance our independence in automotive travel: The National Scenic Byway System.
James A. Dassatti