In response to the staggering number of requests for information about the recent World Monuments Fund sponsored Route 66 symposium in California, I still have a pile of notes and materials to correlate, and thoughts to sort out. So, as this process unfolds I will share as much as possible in an effort to ensure rumors don’t replace facts, and that divisions aren’t fostered as a result of limited information.
The first rumor that needs to be immediately addressed is in regard to the role of Michael Wallace. The entire renaissance of Route 66 is being built on a foundation laid by a handful of people and Mr. Wallis is one of those individuals.
It was a pressing unscheduled personal issue that prevented his attendance. This was unfortunate from a number of perspectives as his expertise would have lent itself well to the round table strategic planning session on Friday.
Now, a bit about the symposium and what I took from it. With the exception of a very early, very fascinating, drizzly morning tour of Cars Land (6:30 on Thursday), the first two days were marathon sessions of coffee, note taking, reviewing of notes, coffee, brain storming, coffee, discussions, presentations, and more note taking as speaker after speaker presented information about the roads future, how to preserve its unique attributes, how to ensure it remains an important of the American landscape for another century, how communities have harnessed the power that is the resurgent interest in Route 66, and a staggering array of other topics.
The best way to portray the wide scope of the presentations is to give you a bit of background on a few of the speakers. The lengthy list included Glenn Schlottman, Community Relations Manager at the Arizona Office of Tourism, Allan Affedlt, elected mayor of Winslow on two occasions and the owner of the stunning La Posada Hotel who restored it to former glory, Ellie Alexander, Director of Tourism for the City of Pontiac Illinois, and Amir Eylon, Vice President, Partnership Development for North America at Brand USA.
Ensuring that almost every facet of Route 66 development and preservation was represented, additional speakers included, Amy Webb, heritage tourism specialist, Bob Russell, Mayor of Pontiac, Illinois, Kevin Mueller, owner of the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, Ed Wilson, strategic consultant for the World Monuments Fund, Jamie Sweeting, Chairman of the Board of Sustainable Travel International, film producer Zdnek Jurasek of the Czech Route 66 Association, David Knudson, Executive Director of the National Historic Route 66 Federation, Stephen Johnson, Guided Tours Product Manager at Eagle Rider Motorcycle Rentals & Tours, Anne Haaker, Illinois Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, Hal Fairbanks, Vice President of Acquisitions for HRI Properties, and Aaron Chaffee, Vice President of Hostel Development. This is but a partial list but it gives you an idea as to why I need more time to decipher notes and present solid usable information.
Needless to say I learned a great deal at the symposium and hope to be able to utilize it to make a contribution to the preservation, as well as development, of Route 66. I also was quite pleased to learn that without meaning to we aptly bestowed the moniker of Crossroads of the Past & Future on the 2014 International Festival, and taped into key components needed to advance the roads popularity.
The challenges facing the Route 66 community are extensive and diverse. They run the gamut from the fact that almost every single first and second generation bridge on this highway at the end of originally designed lifespans or beyond to the endangered species that is original lodging in the form of motels or hotels.
Extensive detail and technicalities aside, I came away from the symposium with a great deal of hope, optimism, and excitement that I hope will be infectious. Each who attended received an overwhelming wealth of information for the transformation of their community, and as a result the Route 66 community.
However, the most exciting aspect of the entire event was the cohesive sense of community. This is not to say there weren’t disagreements, especially during the round table strategic planning discussions on the last day.
However, most of the disagreements can easily be resolved, especially if those who attended will use this event as an opportunity to forge alliances and cooperative partnerships. Now, the primary obstacle to really gaining momentum is leadership, and that was a primary sticking point.
Do we, the Route 66 community, build a coalition of existent organizations, do we wipe the slate clean and rebuild using key components and hard won knowledge, or do we build an organization of an existing entity to mediate conflicts between, and coordinate, existing organizations?