Please Note: Because the National Scenic Byways Program is no longer funded, FHWA is no longer soliciting grant applications. Without funding for the Program, FHWA will not be moving forward with another round of designations of America's Byways® at this time.
The following memorandum is presented to suggest how the "Land and People" concept could be introduced to byway coordinators and byway advocates. Existing designated byways will be asked to identify a "land" or "people" focus based on their nominating intrinsic qualities (All-American Roads may identify both a "land" and "people" focus if appropriate).
To best assess the intrinsic quality diversity of the National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP), the existing evaluation tools may need to be refined. While the local assessments of individual byway intrinsic quality resources have been generally accurate (based on Program definitions and directives), the six categories overlap to such a degree that they make it difficult for any type of system-wide evaluation. As such, these categories do not provide sufficient distinction to allow the Program to present a comprehensive summation of the America's Byways® collection. The uniqueness of the Program's 126 byways has overshadowed the common threads, resources, and themes that provide unity to the collection.
To better assess and review byway intrinsic qualities from one byway to another, the NSBP is introducing the concept of Land and People. The current intrinsic qualities will be clustered into two groups: Land (scenic, natural and recreational) and People (historic, cultural and archaeological). Land and People will not replace the six intrinsic qualities, but will help to showcase the interrelationships among the six intrinsic qualities and help the Program to better market and manage the America's Byways® collection.
The legislation establishing the National Scenic Byways Program listed six intrinsic qualities to characterize resources desired along America's Byways®. The intrinsic qualities define the resource base that is the foundation of the Program. The Interim Policy for the Program adds definitions of the six "intrinsic qualities" and requires a demonstration of significance in at least one of these qualities (two for All-American Roads). In order to encourage byway sponsors to focus on the most important attributes of their byways, the Program has required nominations to identify only one intrinsic quality for National Scenic Byway designation (two for All-American Road designation).
The six qualities have been well documented and identified by the individual byways in the collection, but they also have, by their subjective nature, led to varied interpretations by the different byways. While unique resources support these varied interpretations, they also make it difficult to assess the overall resource diversity of the Program. For example, does a lakeshore represent a scenic quality due to its beautiful setting in the landscape, an example of the natural quality as representative of an inland lake, or a recreational quality for those that choose to paddle its placid waters? Is the stone foundation of a round barn historic as a nineteenth-century structure, cultural as an artifact associated with the work ethic of the community that constructed it, or archaeological as a remain of the past farming activity?
More importantly, do these distinctions really matter, and do they advance the Program's fundamental purpose as expressed in the statute governing the Program (Title 23, Section 162 of the United States Code)? Or do they unnecessarily complicate the evolution of the Program as a collection of byways that communities and visitors can easily comprehend and use? If the river route is an exceptional driving experience for a variety of reasons that are all interrelated, should a nomination applicant have to choose "scenic" to the exclusion of "natural" and "recreational" qualities?
The six intrinsic qualities have been useful categories to help guide advocates in identifying and connecting the resources along a byway, but many byways have found it difficult to identify a single intrinsic quality that captures the collective experience of the entire route. Naturally, local advocates try to make a case for what they feel is their byway's strongest "intrinsic quality," which may or may not be intrinsic to the true significance of the byway.
To promote tourism and Program goals, the National Scenic Byways Program needs a method for evaluation that can better assess the diversity of the collection by offering valuable comparisons among byways and regions, and identifying potential goals for new additions to the program. This method needs to be sufficiently flexible to respect the grassroots interpretations of individual byways, while also enhancing the Federal program's ability to assist local byways based on a more comprehensive understanding of the system as a whole. What is needed is a method that is flexible, universally adaptable to all regions and byway types, conforms to existing statutory and program mandates, is logical enough to ensure its embrace at the local level, and is easily undertaken by FHWA program staff.
On detailed analysis of the intrinsic qualities of the collection, there are great variations in individual byway identification among the six intrinsic qualities. The following chart shows the number of byways that have been nationally designated for each intrinsic quality, along with the total number of byways that have important resources for each quality (i.e., including those byways that were designated for a different intrinsic quality).
The difference between the number of byways that are "designated" and "potential" for each intrinsic quality is an indication of the interrelatedness of the six qualities, and also suggests the degree to which the distribution of designated qualities is affected by the requirement that only one or two qualities be used for designation.
What at first appears a disparity quickly coalesces when the intrinsic qualities are grouped into two clusters: "Land" (scenic, natural and recreational) and "People" (historic, cultural and archaeological).
This clustering suggests two broad categories: those primarily associated with the land, and those primarily associated with people. These may be also be categorized as "scenic" (land) and "heritage" (people) byways.
These categories retain the term "scenic byway" for what it is most commonly associated in the mind of the general public—a pleasant and attractive drive—and establish the term "heritage byway" to capture the intrinsic qualities associated most with historic sites and cultural resources. Scenic and Heritage, or Land and People may be used only for internal program organization and understanding, or may be ultimately applied as part of a marketing or identification program.
The clustering of America's Byways® as scenic and heritage byways may still be incomplete: for example, is the Blue Ridge Parkway a scenic byway due to its natural and scenic qualities, or is it a heritage byway due to its historic road design and introduction to the culture of Appalachia? Nonetheless, as local grassroots self-identification of the byways remains an important hallmark of the Program, such potential disparities need not be problematic so long as the visitor experience, corridor management plan, and marketing activities for the byway are geared toward the same goals.