The long awaited announcement came the morning of February 16th, 2021 that the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway has been given the designation of a National Scenic Byway! This was a long-awaited award and work towards it began in 2016 when working on the Corridor Management Plan (CMP)and talked about even prior to that.
The Lincoln Highway, although the first improved transcontinental road in the nation, is a fairly newer byway in Iowa. The Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byway program is over 20 years old. The Lincoln Highway was nominated by the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association and brought into the fold as a state byway in 2006 (making it 15 years in 2021).
A byway is made up of 6 intrinsic qualities: archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic. The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway’s main quality is historic and we focus on that aspect in many of our programs and marketing materials. To be a National Scenic Byway one of these qualities needs to be of high value and the route has to already be recognized as a state byway through their DOT.
As part of Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s agreement with the Iowa DOT to manage this byway, we created a CMP using criteria set out by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). We held community meetings and visited with residents, government officials (local, county, and state) and other organizations to see what amenities existed in each of the intrinsic qualities. Our plan gathered ideas and feelings of the 13 counties and 43 communities our byway ties together as we prepared our to-do lists of projects. One of the topics, and identified as a state-wide project, was for the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway to apply to be a National Scenic Byway.
There was only one small problem. The National Scenic Byway program was sitting on FHWA’s shelf. It was still a program, but was not active and not being funded. It wasn’t revived until 2020 when the program welcomed new designations (no funding included). The stars had aligned for us- the Scenic Byway program was revived and taking applications, we had a completed our CMP, we also had an Interpretive Master Plan, and we had overwhelming support of our communities to make this application. See https://www.prrcd.org/lincoln-highway-corridor-management-plan/for the full CMP.
Once the work began in earnest on the multi-page application, we needed to identify 8 important locations that supported our chosen “Historic” quality. It was difficult to narrow the choices down to just 8 and even them out across Iowa to show an accurate impression of the Lincoln Highway route in Iowa.
The locations chosen were:
The Sawmill Museum, Clinton
Youngville Cafe, rural Benton County
Preston’s Station Historic District, Belle Plaine
Lincoln Highway Bridge, Tama
Reed-Niland Corner, Colo
Carroll Railroad Depot, Carroll
Brick Street, Woodbine
Harrison County Historical Village and Welcome Center, Missouri Valley
Also included in the application was a route map and a turn-by-turn description of the 460+ mile Iowa Byway route, traveler information about nearby airports and interstates/highways, restroom availability, brochures and marketing materials that are available, etc. It was a very intensive application and took a team to write it and to create the map.
Our application was reviewed and submitted in June 2020 by the Iowa DOT and then the waiting began. FHWA said in late summer 2020 that they had made their recommendations to the Office of Administration and Office of Transportation for them to review and approve the list. Approval finally happened on January 19, 2021 but the announcement not made until February 16th.
We are so excited to embark on this new journey as a National Scenic Byway and the exposure we will receive now on a national level. Even during a pandemic, we have been delighted to see visitors check-in to locations in our new passport program with Travel Iowa. This program rolled out in January 2020 and will run for a year. All eight of the above locations are, or will be, a part of this passport program. It’s another way we encourage people to travel and learn more about this historic road.
We’ll see you on the Byway – now a NATIONAL Scenic Byway!
Public support can do wonderful things and we are witnessing its strength during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeing people come together as seamstresses make masks, distilleries make hand sanitizers, and manufacturers retool to make personal protective equipment (PPE). Social distancing, no large groups, and wearing masks are our new “normal.” Hopefully there will be a vaccine soon to eradicate this virus.
Re-reading the Winter edition of The Lincoln Highway Forum https://www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org/forum/, our attention was drawn to an article written in 1914 by Henry B. Joy, President of the Lincoln Highway Association. He talks about public support for the Lincoln Highway and commented that the Highway helped spur the improved road movement for two reasons: 1) It was a definite accomplishment with a “real, tangible goal towards which to work as well as crystallizing scattered efforts.” 2) It was a monumental tribute to “our martyred president.”
The 3,400 miles of road was in need of improvements and Carl Fisher, the idea man behind the Lincoln Highway, had an initial cost estimate of $10,000,000. He and the Association began fundraising efforts. Initial funds of $300,000 come from a variety of sources including the President of the United States, state governors, US Senators and Representatives, large industrial organizations. and high dignitaries of many religious denominations. Among the most heartwarming donations were bags of pennies, nickles, and dimes from the school children in a small Nebraska town and seven cents from children in an Alaskan school.
Henry B. Joy in the official LHA Packard, in 1915 stuck in the “gumbo” near LaMoille, Iowa.
The Association appointed state, county, and local consuls (representatives) representing the “highest class of citizens in every community- bankers, clergymen and business men of all kinds”- to organize the Association on a local level as they raised funds, exerted political influence, and gave their time, energy, and money freely to carry out the work. The Association office then turned its attention to promotion as it felt this network was strong enough to encourage the necessary improvements on a local level.
We see these local efforts when, in 1915, the Tama community pooled their money to create a unique bridge with side panels that spell out “LINCOLN HIGHWAY”. In 2018-2019, they once again helped out by supplementing restoration funds for the same bridge.
This is what Americans do. See a need and fill it. We give our time, talents, and money. We build roads. We make masks and donate them. We get groceries for someone at risk or in quarantine. We care for the sick. We rush into buildings to save lives. We will get through this COVID-19 pandemic and come out the other side as a more compassionate and cohesive nation and when we do, we will travel the Lincoln Highway- the road America built.
There are signs of spring 2020 along the Lincoln Highway! In some places, snow has melted away and some flowers are busting through the soil. That means spring is just around the corner. Home and Garden Shows are being held in many communities across Iowa. Also Camping and Boating shows! These types of events get people excited for warmer weather and for the eventual summer.
Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Recreation and Camping Guide
Also check our our Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Recreation and Camping brochure for ideas of where you can go along our route and enjoy the outdoors. https://old.prrcd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/10-18.UPD-Camp26RecBrochure.pdf What preparations are you making for spring? Cleaning closets? Raking the yard? Perusing garden catalogs and magazines? Getting your fishing gear ready? We all know that Thursday, March 19th is the first official day of spring, but, as Iowans, we know it can still snow in April and be chilly in May. What can we do in preparation in the meantime for the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway to get ready for spring? We know the Department of Transportation is tasked with handling the physical road repairs, but what can we do as a group or as an individual for the Byway? On my way to work today, I noticed some trash along the ditches and medians. Does your section of road have groups that participate in Adopt-A-Highway? If not, do you know of a group that could? Now I am not suggesting that you go into the median of a busy highway yourself to pick up trash without proper training or a safety vest, but if you are a landowner perhaps cleaning up your own ditch makes sense. (I know most do already.) If you live in the city, as I do now, ask your city how you can be part of a city-wide cleanup day. Perhaps there is a group that spruces up the entrance to your town to make it more inviting, not only for visitors, but for residents. This makes an impact on all and increases community pride. Some communities do a “swap” where leaders in one community go to another to view the community through “new eyes” as to what works well and what could be improved. Then leaders from that community go to the other and do the same type of review. Sometimes we don’t even notice things in our own back yard as we are accustomed to them. The official Iowa Byways sign for the Lincoln Highway Heritage BywayAre there buildings that could do with a fresh coat of paint? Every year Paint Iowa Beautiful offers, through a grant application process, a chance to obtain paint through their program. (Sorry the 2020 deadline has passed, but please remember this for next year.)
One of my spring goals is to finish the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway signage inventory. I know there are signs in 2 counties and 2 communities that I need to address. It’s been an on-going process for several years now. (There are 1200 signs across the state to monitor!)
Also on my list of to-do’s are to continue supporting attractions that are in need of restoration. Preston’s Station, Quirks’ Cabins, and a gas station in Montour are among the priorities. We are also planning several interpretive installations across the state that will increase education and promotion of the road.
Preston’s Station Historic District in Belle Plaine, Iowa taken by Mike Kelly
Let us know what spring events you have in the works and how we can help you promote them.
The world of Byways changed on September 22, 2019 when “Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019” was signed into law. It passed out of the U.S House of Representatives on a vote of 404-19 earlier this year and then was passed unanimously in the Senate. The President signed it on 9/22/19. The bill directs the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to restart the nomination process for National Scenic Byway status within 90 days of enactment, and to make a round of designations within one year.We are very grateful to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) for their leadership on the bill in the Senate and to Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) for their leadership in the House. See what other groups have to say about the passage of this bill and what it means for America at https://www.scenic.org/blog/president-signs-national-scenic-byways-bill-into-law/
We, at the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, are patiently waiting to see what the guidelines and nomination requirements are for this re-energized program. Only in Illinois is the Lincoln Highway a National Scenic Byway. The route in the states of Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, and half of Pennsylvania are state byways. The other states (New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California) have not designated their portion of the historic route as a byway. One must first be a state byway before becoming a national byway.
In Iowa, we have two National Scenic Byways- the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway and the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. The Loess Hills runs along the western edge of the state and the Great River Road is along the Mississippi River on the eastern edge of Iowa. The Lincoln Highway connects to both of them.
Now keep in mind that no funding was attached to this bill. This is only to take nominations and approve byways for this distinction. That does not mean that funding couldn’t happen in the future, but it was not part of this bill.
A Corridor Management Plan has been a requirement in the past. We completed ours in late 2016 and have been working hard to implement the projects identified in that process. Twenty interpretive panels in 8 communities have been created and we have plans for several more. The route has also been promoted in brochures, presentations, and at the Iowa State Fair. We have partnered with universities, government entities, other non-profits, and citizens to retain this historic road and its varied resources.
As we keep the momentum going, writing grants and planning projects, we desire to become a National Scenic Byway one day. We see the possibility on the horizon.
Can summer really be over? It seems every year it goes faster and faster. We, here at the Byway office, seemed to have packed quite a bit into our last 3 months. Five communities celebrated 150 years this summer- Carroll, Dow City, Grand Junction, Scranton, and Westside. We entered a car into several of the parades and had Bob and Joyce Ausberger, Lincoln Highway Association members, help toss candy out to the crowd in Grand Junction. What a great way to share in the fun!
The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway took 4 of the 11 days at the Iowa Byways booth under the grandstand at the Iowa State Fair (Aug 8-18) and talked to fair-goers about the unique Byway routes in Iowa. We shared some history in a trivia spinning-wheel game. Everyone, of course, got a prize!
This year our new featured booklet at the fair was about the original 1919 Army Convoy, the Lincoln Highway, Henry Ostermann (the idea man behind the convoy and a man we have written about before), Dwight Eisenhower (who was on the original convoy), and Dwight’s wife, Mamie, (who was born in Boone, Iowa). These booklets are available at some state Welcome Centers and select locations along the Byway route. And of course, you can always request copies from our office at email@example.com
On August 15th, we unveiled an interpretive panel in the City of Montour’s Maple Hill Cemetery. This panel serves as a long overdue memorial to Henry Ostermann, who served the Lincoln Highway Association as their first Field Secretary and knew the road and the route better than anyone. He had been piloting convoys up and down the east coast in 1917 and came up with the idea to test men, equipment, and roads by taking a convoy across the nation- on the Lincoln Highway. His idea was a reality in 1919. In 1920, on his 21st trip across the nation (and his honeymoon), he lost his life in an accident east of Montour, near the cemetery. In the August-September 1920 Iowa Highway Commission Service Bulletin, the IHC called for a memorial to be placed near the accident site.
In 2019, it became a reality (99 years later). About 25 people gathered to witness this installation. A small program consisted of several speakers: Reed Riskedahl (Prairie Rivers of Iowa Board); Mary Preston (Iowa Lincoln Highway Association President); Dotti Thompson (Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa/Tama County Community Foundation); Rev. John Christianson (Living Faith Methodist Church of Montour), Sue Eberhart (Montour City Council); and Jan Gammon (Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Coordinator). Gammon also reads words from Rep. Dean Fisher of Montour. Sue Eberhart and Vicky Garske, Montour City Council members, unveiled the panel for all to see. During the program, a few sprinkles fell from the sky. In retrospect, maybe it was Mr. Ostermann verifying his overdue acknowledgement.
A few days later, we celebrated Mr. Ostermann once again as the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) retraced the route of the original 1919 Convoy. The original convoy traveled about 6 mph and this modern day group, with vintage vehicles, averaged 35 mph. There was a link to live tracking, so a person could follow the convoy as it made its way across America. Our Byway staff caught up with the convoy in Belle Plaine, Iowa and then saw them again in Tama, Marshalltown, and Nevada. The convoy was impressed by the amount of people who came out to see them- whether on a city street or at the end of their rural lane. Byway staff had helped promote this event in Iowa- sending out press releases, sharing our booklet, and doing interviews with KROS Radio in Clinton and also with RadioIowa. We are most appreciative to the public for their response.
The Lincoln Highway Association will also bring a convoy of classic and contemporary cars, retracing the same route. They will be in Iowa September 6th and 7th, overnighting in Marshalltown and Council Bluffs. They will go a little faster!
Now with fall approaching, its time to regroup and look for funding for future projects. We have some already being planned, so stay tuned!