As Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officials recently designated 30 highways in 20 states as “All American Roads” or “National Scenic Byways,” many campground owners expressed skepticism about the value of the designations.
“I don’t want to say it’s not worth it, but there are so many marketing opportunities that promoting scenic highways is not high on the list,” said Paul McKay, owner of Campground at Natural Bridge, Natural Bridge Station, Va.
McKay’s campground is located about 10 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, which, in neighboring North Carolina, is designated an All American Highway.
“We are such a scenic area that a designation of a highway as a ‘scenic byway’ doesn’t have much impact,” McKay said.
The 30 new designations – five “All American Roads” and 25 “National Scenic Byways” – bring to 72 the number of highways included in the program, which is the target of $25 million in annual spending under the most recent federal highway transportation budget.
The new designees include such stretches of highway as the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada, The Seward Highway in Alaska and Ashley River Road in North Carolina.
To be designated National Scenic Byways, highways need to have scenic, cultural, historical, archaeological or recreational significance. To receive All American Road status, two or more criteria must exist and the route needs to have more than regional significance.
FHWA has committed $139 million in discretionary grants to 39 states for such things as planning, safety improvements, construction of rest areas, bicycle and walking paths, scenic overlook cutouts and interpretive facilities.
Sharon Hurt Davidson, marketing director for the National Scenic Byways program, isn’t dissuaded by the early lack of enthusiasm.
“I think in 20 years these roads are going to be a traveling experience on the level with other American treasurers like our national parks,” Hurt Davidson said.
Relying heavily on the Internet for promotion and as an information resource for travelers and the media, the official National Scenic Byways’ Web site (www.byways.org) was redesigned in May to offer significantly improved maps, pictures and text descriptions of highways.
Even if it is difficult to judge the economic impact of the National Scenic Byways program, not all campground owners are dismissive.
“We push it a lot in our advertising,” said Tim McRae, owner of Dinosaurland KOA, Vernal, Utah, which sits on the Flaming Gorge-Uintas Scenic Byway in eastern Utah. “We have no way to gauge whether we get more customers, but my suspicion is that we do. Has anyone pulled in and said they are here because we are on a Scenic Byway? No. But anything that you do will have a positive affect.”