|Remnants of the Route 66 bridge at the site of TimesBeach in Missouri.|
With the loss of the historic bridge on the Meramec River that linked the two halves of Route 66 State Park in Missouri at the site of Times Beach a recent and painful memory, Route 66 activist and explorer Rich Dinkela has fostered development of an international groundswell of support within the Route 66 community for the preservation of the Gasconade River Bridge that was closed to traffic this past December. Details of the initiative to have the bridge renovated can be found on Rich’s website, Hooked on Route 66.
Meanwhile, as Scott Piotrowski has noted, in recent years we lost an historic Route 66 bridge in the Los Angeles area, largely because there wasn’t a similar show of support. Meanwhile, a bridge or two in Oklahoma may face the same fate as the Gasconade Bridge before the end of this year.Tour developers lack a centralized source for current or detailed information. Event planners are left to their own devices even if that event is to be international in scope. International Route 66 associations develop and plan events with spotty and inconsistent assistance. Media outlets utilize outdated or incorrect information to develop stories about Route 66 because there isn’t a centralized media resource center that provides the needed educational materials. There is a great deal of hand wringing about the engagement of younger generations but only sporadic and disconnected efforts to educate or involve a younger demographic.
These are but a few manifestation of a cold, hard fact and that is the Route 66 renaissance can not be sustained into the highways centennial and beyond, nor can the infrastructure that gives a trip on the double six a sense of time travel be maintained or preserved unless we can develop a multifaceted support structure that guides, harnesses, channels, initiates, and magnifies passionate grass roots initiatives.Scattered throughout the Route 66 community are passionate, well meaning, short staffed, and underfunded organizations, grassroots initiatives, and associations. The Route 66 Cares initiative and the incredibly expansive website for the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce are largely the work of one man, Ron Hart.Jerry McClanahan’s treasured and invaluable guide to Route 66, and the publication of the dining and lodging guide that provides the Route 66 business community with promotional support are travel tools provided by the National Historic Route 66 Federation, another one man show, this one headed by David Knudson. These are are all examples of why I was honored to be asked to assist in the development of the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Program and World Monuments Fund facilitated steering committee. The Route 66 community and these one man initiatives need a multifaceted support structure. The Route 66 community needs a representative organization that can foster a unified sense of community purpose. Even though it has gotten off to a slow start, in my opinion the diverse nature of participants represents the best opportunity for the creation of that support structure, and eventually, the development of that representative body. In the next meeting of the steering committee the focus of discussion will be the initiation and development of working groups, and people to staff them. For this initiative to succeed participation from the Route 66 community is crucial. With that said, I respectively request that in the coming week you share ideas, thoughts, and suggestions about what form and content you would like to see in these proposed working groups. Development of a coordinated international outreach? Development of a speakers bureau? Development of a group to coordinate highway infrastructure preservation issues? In closing, I would like to thank each and every enthusiast, everyone who gives selflessly of their time, and everyone who dreams of traveling the double six or opening a business on that storied highway. You are are what gives Route 66 a unique life and vitality, you are what makes Route special. You are needed to ensure that the Route 66 renaissance continues into the centennial and beyond.