In recent years the historic motels on Route 66 were listed as endangered. During the Route 66 International Festival this year, historian Jim Ross will make a presentation at the Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future conference about the endangered Route 66 bridge.
Preservation of bridges and motels require a distinctly different approach. However, the preservation of both are crucial if Route 66 is to remain as a multifaceted time capsule where more than a century of societal evolution is preserved for future generations.
However, the loss of an historic motel or bridge, landmark or even section of roadway is not the greatest threat to Route 66 today. It is the inability of some Route 66 business owners, community leaders, and self appointed guardians of the road to put aside personal interests, egos, and petty differences.
Even worse are the individuals who publically profess the need for unity, for cooperative efforts while stirring discontent and dissension or while actively fostering divisions at the local level. If we in the Route 66 community are unable to put aside differences in the best interests of the road, what chance do we have of creating a coalition needed for the preservation of a bridge?
If business owners at the local level are incapable of forming beneficial partnerships, how are we to create a community wide cooperative for the entire Route 66 corridor?
Why is the historic Route 66 motel endangered? First, many were built with short term goals of profit in mind, not longevity or as a future historic artifact.
Second, people traveling Route 66 want an authentic Route 66 experience, but not to authentic. That presents a tremendous challenge in regard to renovation.
Third most historic motels were small complexes of less than a dozen rooms. Large tour groups that constitute an important part of modern Route 66 traffic can not utilize these facilities.
However, if two or more historic motels in close proximity to each other are renovated, and if the owners form a mutually beneficial partnership, both properties have a better chance of surviving as profitable entities.
We can extrapolate on this concept. If neighboring communities pool promotional resources, create interlinked events, and build cooperative partnerships all facets of Route 66 from preservation to revitalization and economic development benefit. An excellent case study is found in the cooperative formed between Joplin, Carthage, and Galena.
The people traveling Route 66 are looking for an authentic, fun filled adventure, a holiday escape to a magical place where the best of the past and present blend together seamlessly. They have little interest in the political intrigue, the infighting, the backbiting, or child like feuds.
Airing these publically for the single purpose of fostering arguments rather than to resolve problems or offer solutions not only diminishes the Route 66 experience, it endangers every aspect of the roads future.
I am painfully aware that intrigue, disagreements, and competition are also a part of the Route 66 legacy. However, times have changed. We as a community need to focus on ensuring the Route 66 traveler and enthusiast enjoys their adventure. We as a community need to build and unify rather than destroy and divide.
The embryonic conference in Kingman is a step in that direction. The developing plans for a convention in 2015 is another. However, if we are to build a cooperative partnership that serves the entire Route 66 community, we must first build cooperative partnerships at the local level.
Lets use these fledging opportunities to ensure Route 66 remains vital for future generations. In all honesty, I would like to hear your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions pertaining to how we can build these partnerships and cooperatives.