Bluffton S.C. 46 has the right qualities to become a national scenic byway, according to consultants hired to develop an application for the designation.
Representatives from WMTH Corporation told residents Monday evening that they like the chances of the route qualifying for the federal program, which would make it eligible for federal money to help preserve its scenic qualities.
WMTH wrapped up its first visit to the area in what will be a months long process to map the qualities and develop a vision for the route, which are required for the designation. Nothing is certain at this point, but the route’s tree canopies and historic buildings give it an edge.
“I believe it would qualify at this point,” said Debby Spencer, president of business and tourism development for WMTH.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration determines the designation, requiring the highway have historical, cultural, natural, scenic, recreational or archeological value.
That means consultants have to develop an inventory of each historic home, each oak canopy and each scenic quality that makes it unique, Spencer said.
Consultants are considering including Boundary and Calhoun streets and other adjoining roads as part of the byway to make it long enough for the designation. Scenic byways have to be at least eight miles long.
The byway would not include the portion of S.C. 46 extending from U.S. 278 to May River Road because scenic byways cannot contain four lanes.
Consultants are looking for community feedback to learn the history behind the routes. And showing that residents are interested in the designation is crucial for it to happen, Spencer said.
“Perhaps what’s most important is community involvement,” she said” (Judges) need to see that the community is passionate.”
The designation would open an array of funding possibilities, including money to protect the scenic quality along the road or heighten safety.
The next round of nominations begins in early 2007 with designation decided in 2008.
Because only a portion of the road is within Bluffton limits, Beaufort County also is involved in the process, as well as state transportation officials.
The town paid WMTH $29,000 to develop the designation application.
WMTH CORPORATION PO BOX 51153 BOWLING GREEN, KY 42102 PHONE (270) 781-6858 FAX 781-2949