What is an Alabama Scenic Byway?
The Alabama Scenic Byways Program seeks to identify, preserve, protect and enhance scenic, historic, natural, recreational, cultural, and archaeological resources; enhance recreation; and, promote economic development through tourism and education in the history, culture, and natural beauty of Alabama.
A Scenic Byway is a stretch of roadway that provides an exceptional travel experience through the State of Alabama. A successful Byway will be different for each Alabama community. As a minimum, a Scenic Byway will identify outstanding Alabama resources and develop a program to protect, enhance and promote these resources for both residents and visitors. The Byway will be appropriately managed, and its special resources protected, by the local communities it traverses.
The Alabama Scenic Byways Program Manual
You will need Adobe Acrobat’s free software to read the Program Manual. This manual provides all the details about becoming an Alabama Scenic Byway, including step-by-step instructions.
Six possible criteria were identified to designate roadways as Scenic Byways and they are characterized as “intrinsic qualities”. Summary definitions of the intrinsic qualities are provided below. Detailed information is contained in the Alabama Scenic Byways Program Manual. An Alabama Scenic Byway will embody one or more intrinsic qualities.
Scenic: Beauty whether natural or human made. The quality of these features is measured by how memorable, distinctive, uninterrupted, and unified they are.
Natural: Minimal human disturbance of the natural ecological features associated with the Byway region.
Historic: Landscapes, buildings, structures or other visual evidence of the past. It has to be something that can still be seen, not just the site of something that used to exist.
Cultural: Visual evidence of the unique customs, traditions, folklore, or rituals of a currently existing human group.
Archaeological: Visual evidence of the unique customs, traditions, folklores, or rituals of no longer existing human group or animal species.
Recreational: The road itself is used for recreation like jogging, biking, roadside picnics, or provides direct access to recreational sites like campgrounds, lakes, recreational trails, etc.
Overview of the Scenic Byway Process
The Alabama Scenic Byways Program Manual identifies three sequential phases for development of Scenic Byways: eligibility, designation and implementation. It is anticipated that each phase will be completed prior to initiation of the next.
Eligibility – The Eligibility Phase determines whether or not a proposed Byway meets Alabama Scenic Byways standards. It is not enough that intrinsic resources merely exist along a corridor, they must be exceptional, significant and distinctive to the point that these resources are a destination unto themselves. Included in this phase is identification and mapping of intrinsic resources as well as initial development of a corridor story for marketing purposes.
Designation – The Designation Phase centers on development of a Corridor Management Plan. This phase of the Byway development process focuses on developing an Action Plan for protecting, enhancing and managing the resources identified in the Eligibility Phase for both present and future conditions.
Implementation – The Implementation Phase begins the physical and policy implementation of the Scenic Byway. It takes the actions identified in the Designation Phase and initiates protection and enhancement of the Byway intrinsic resources. At the initiation of this phase the Byway is physically recognized with the installation of Alabama Scenic Byway signage.
This process is driven at the local level through the support of a Corridor Advocacy Group.
Benefits of a Scenic Byway Designation
A Scenic Byway designation at the state level provides official recognition that your community possesses outstanding Alabama resources worthy of protection and promotion for residents and visitors. In addition to this increased community pride and awareness, several additional benefits may accrue to your community:
- Increased business, tax revenue, and jobs from tourist dollars;
- Federal and state funding for developing a Corridor Management Plan to identify, protect and enhance the intrinsic resources along the Byway;
- Access to expert resources for managing and protecting intrinsic resources along your Byway;
- Identification on state, federal and auto-club highway maps leading to more tourism opportunities for your community;
- Money and other assistance from state and national offices of economic development and tourism.
- A National Scenic Byway designation can make your route eligible for federal Scenic Byway grants, technical assistance from the Federal Highway Administration and inclusion in national Scenic Byways promotion plans.
Getting Started: Forming a Corridor Advocacy Group (CAG)
Taking a corridor through the Scenic Byway Eligibility, Designation and Implementation Phases is a significant work effort. Without strong support at the local level, it is unlikely that this effort will be completed successfully. The Corridor Advocacy Group (CAG) will be the driving force behind this effort and officially recognized as the controlling body for the Byway. A formal structure should be provided for the CAG. The efforts of the CAG will determine the difference between successful and unsuccessful Byways. The CAG, as a minimum, must include the following individuals: a representative from the appropriate regional planning commission; an elected official from each jurisdiction traversed by the Byway; and a representative from each local planning agency traversed by the Byway (if applicable).
Membership in the CAG will evolve as the Byway matures and new opportunities and challenges are identified and addressed. Carrying a corridor through the Alabama Scenic Byways Program is a challenging task and the CAG must consist of individuals committed to the success of the Byway and willing to work hard for the Byway designation.
Who’s in a CAG?
The CAG must include the following individuals as a minimum: a representative from the Regional Planning Commission; an elected official from each jurisdiction traversed by the Byway; and a representative from each local planning agency traversed by the Byway (if applicable). Some other individuals and groups who may bring unique talents to the CAG include:
- Neighborhood Associations
- Chambers of Commerce
- Economic Development Councils
- Environmental Organizations
- Beautification Boards
In Good Company:
Since inception, the Alabama Scenic Byways Program has named seven roads as Alabama Scenic Byways (one of these has since been named a national byway as well!). In addition to these seven roads, there are also four nationally recognized scenic byways in Alabama.
State Designated Byways:
- Appalachian Highlands Scenic Byway
- Barbour County Governor’s Trail
- Black Belt Nature and Heritage Trail
- Black Warrior River Scenic Byway
- Leeds Stagecoach Route
- Lookout Mountain Parkway
Nationally Designated Byways:
- The Natchez Trace
- Selma to Montgomery All American Road
- Talladega Scenic Byway
- Alabama’s Coastal Connection
Other Roads that have expressed interest:
- Several corridors in West Alabama
- A road in North Baldwin County