It is America’s goodwill ambassador, and an icon where myth and reality, and the past, present, and future intermingle. Is there any symbol more popular anywhere in the world than the U.S. highway shield shaped sign adorned with the double six?
When it seemed as though the old road would soon be relegated to footnote like its predecessors the National Old Trails Highway and Santa Fe Trail, the Mojave Road and Spanish Trail, the ember was kept glowing as they awaited a day when the old road would once again be the Main Street of America, as well as a bridge that spanned the chasm between past and future.
|Members of the Czech Route 66 Association in
Even though the old road is more popular today than at anytime in its storied history, many of the problems and challenges faced by the Route 66 community now are much like those faced in 1930, 1940, and 1960. The difference between now and then is that there isn’t a U.S. Highway 66 Association to shepherd the roads promotion, provide assistance to the Route 66 community as a whole, or foster a sense of unified community purpose.
In the years between the roads official demise, and its rise from the ashes like the mythical Phoenix, state and international organizations have valiantly fought preservationist battles, made tremendous strides in preserving the highways legacy as well as tangible links to its past, and promoted it throughout the world. Grass roots initiatives, the tireless work of the National Historic Route 66 Federation, the dream of Michael Wallis made manifest in the Route 66 Alliance, and the innovative endeavors in cities such as Pontiac and Cuba have fanned the ember into a blaze and as a result, the old double six is arguably the most famous highway in the world.
Still, in recent years, as the road grew in popularity and the challenges became more daunting, there has been a growing outcry for creation of a modern incarnation of the U.S. Highway 66 Association. In part, this is due to an increasing awareness that there is a need for an organization that can magnify current promotional and preservationist endeavors while eliminating wasted resources of finances and time that result from duplication.
An additional catalyst is the dramatic increase in media interest in the highway, the lack of a central clearing house for information, and the resultant frustrations and misinformation that result. When Open Road Productions initiated development of their corporate tours for Chinese clients, the company made over fifty phone calls to obtain information. The organizers of the Route 66 International Festival in Kingman had to create a network of contacts for authors, artists, speakers, and Route 66 personalities as a central bureau for these individuals is non existent.
When a major New York based catalog company sought information and images for a forthcoming catalog, they too were left to their own devises. Resultant of a lack of a central clearing house for accurate information, a recent tour of Canadian journalists sponsored by Nissan led to the publication of some erroneous information, and stories based on opinions derived from five minute stops.
These examples and countless others magnify the need for the development of an umbrella organization that lends assistance to grass roots initiatives, serves as a central point of contact for media sources, provides an array of resources for organizations and municipalities, and that raises awareness of the importance of preservation through educational programs. To that end, last November the World Monuments Fund facilitated an historic gathering, the Route 66: The Road Ahead strategic round table in Anaheim, California.
Discussions during that conference, the response to the conference from the Rout 66 community, and related studies led to the creation of a steering committee, and that committees first meeting took place in Albuquerque last week. What an exciting and historic event!
As a follow up to the Route 66: The Road Ahead strategic roundtable held
> in Anaheim, California last year, World Monuments Fund and the National
> Park Service, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program (NPS) are
> facilitating a transparent and inclusive process to develop a national
> framework for collaboration along historic Route 66. To jump-start the
> process, an ad-hoc steering committee was formed for the purpose of
> developing initial recommendations for the broad stakeholder committee
> to consider. The steering committee is comprised of representatives from
> state agencies, state and national nonprofits, tourism, preservation,
> small business, economic development, and transportation. To date, the
> steering committee has developed a draft statement of mission and goals.
> The draft statement included the concept of establishing one
> professionally-led, representative body with an elected board, to
> deliver on strategic goals, convene meetings, act as a central resource
> and represent the road as a whole. On November 20-21, the steering
> committee convened in Albuquerque, NM to incorporate the very positive
> public feedback into the draft mission and goals statement, and to
> develop a proposed structure for the representative body. Details of the
> draft/proposed structure will be made available to the public shortly.
> The next critical step is to create a face-to-face forum for broad
> stakeholder discussion and input. To this end, a series of stakeholder
> meetings, facilitated by the National Park Service, will be held across
> the route in early 2015 to bring Route 66 stakeholders together to
> review and discuss the recommendations developed thus far. More
> information about these meetings will be provided in early 2015.
Even though the release of an official press release is pending, initial information bodes well for the Route 66 community as this endeavor has the potential to ensure the road remains relevant and increases in popularity in coming years. It also represents an incredible opportunity for the fostering of a unified sense of community and community purpose.
Rest assured, I will keep you apprised of developments as they become available.
Now, to close out today’s post, I want to tell you about a few things to be expected in coming weeks. As you may have noted from the advertisement at the top of the blog, and by reading recent posts, my dearest friend and I are heading for the Netherlands in January as guests of the Dutch Route 66 Association, and U.S. Bikers.
In preparation for the upcoming trip, correspondence, research, and language studies have inspired some thoughts on how we in the American Route 66 community can better serve our visitors from foreign lands who share a passion for the double six, and how we can promote the old double six in other countries. These insights, discoveries, and ideas will be shared in coming postings, and I hope they will initiate some lively discussion.
As a bit of a preview of what you will see in the coming weeks here are two links that might be of interest.
One, a informative series on learning basic Dutch phrases and languages, with some cultural insights.
Two, an inclusive website with an array of information on planning for a European adventure.