Route 66 in the News

Meeting Adds Kicks to Route 66

2010-01-24 19:10:58

JOPLIN, Mo. - Revitalizing interest in Route 66 as well as getting input for a Corridor Management Plan (CMP) for Missouri's segment of the road, a prerequisite for seeking national byway status, were the reasons for a public meeting held at the Powers Museum on January 19, 2010. Jointly organized by members of the Route 66 Association of Missouri and representatives of Great River Engineering of Springfield, the meeting was the second of 10 to be held in counties that claim access to the road.

The project initiated in late July 2009 under the auspices of the Missouri Department of Transportation will be a year-long effort involving the gathering of data in order to assess Route 66's cultural and historic significance, what might influence future economic and infrastructure development, including the promotion of tourism, and how to improve the efficiency of transportation along the route.

Jerany Jackson and Spencer Jones, representatives of Great River Engineering, the firm hired by the Route 66 Association of Missouri with the assistance of a National Byway grant, spoke of the Corridor Management Plan as a multi-disciplinary approach to "preserve, promote and protect" old Route 66 within Missouri's borders.

The CMP is "not a zoning plan or an enterprise district," Jackson explained but a "tool to initiate action." As a state byway, defining the road's "intrinsic value" (its character, interest and appeal) was what Jackson suggested was a first step in its progression to the status of a national byway or ultimately an "All American Road," that which brings the most federal funding. Jackson also spoke of the need to change the designation of Route 66 to a national byway as a way of protecting it from being impacted by proposed widening of Interstate 44. Sections of Route 66 that parallel the interstate are designated as Laclede and Webster County Route CC and Laclede County Route W.

Jackson outlined the importance of continuing to develop a map that would catalog what Route 66 in Missouri had to offer, including designations of cultural, recreational, architectural, scenic, historical and natural significance. She mentioned how the Missouri Department of Transportation's Visitor's Center completed last May 2009 near Conway had captured the Route 66 theme as a way to encourage tourism within its borders.

After identifying the road's intrinsic qualities, "what should be done is significant," Jackson said, recognizing that many in the room were interested in what role they could play in economic development. While she admitted that there was no money for redevelopment of commercial properties in road funds, she suggested that cities were taking on renovation projects with community grants or other neighborhood improvement funding.

Each person attending the presentation was given a comment card as well as one that asked, "What's your story?" An audience member quickly responded by suggesting that many stories could be told about visiting the Route 66 Drive-in Theater in Carthage.

The Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven advertises itself as a place "touched by tradition." It prides itself as being a refurbished historic Springfield motel that has welcomed Route 66 guests for over 50 years.

Tonya Pike, spokesperson for the Rail Haven, described it as once consisting of eight rock cabins. With its 90 rooms it now attracts guests, many foreign, who want to stay overnight at a place that preserves the flavor of old Route 66, she said. And what Pike also said was important in promoting tourism was in capitalizing on networking abilities. When guests have questioned her about points of interest on Route 66 in other states she said she was able to share those contacts, whom she said would best be able to answer their questions.

When Doug Dickey, who's now on the board of the Stone's Throw Theatre, was a Carthage cop, he said he remembered an incident in which a mother had phoned to report that a man was photographing her young daughters. As it turned out, he was a German tourist, and it seems that he just wanted to photograph them playing on Route 66. Huh? replied the Mother who didn't even know that they lived on Route 66.

"How many people don't know they live on Route 66?" Dickey asked.

"I hope tonight you and passion [for Route 66]," Jackson said. "It isn't going to amount to anything unless you buy into it."

Membership in the non-profit Route 66 Association of Missouri entitles a person to receive quarterly issues of the Show Me Route 66 magazine, a map of Historic Route 66 in Missouri, and a membership card and window decal. Tax deductible annual dues per person are $25 ($250 for a life membership) for adults, and $15 for seniors over 65 and students with valid student ID. Dues for a family are $30 annually ($300 for life) and dues for foreign individuals are $35 annually (add $20 for air mail postage). Make checks payable to Route 66 Association of Missouri, P.O. Box 8117, St. Louis, MO 63156.

~Mari Winn, Joplin Independent


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