It takes more than beautiful scenery, wildlife, and tourist attractions for a highway to receive a National Byway designation, according to Nancy Casey, of Casey Planning & Design. "It primarily means that we have something unique and special along our byway to offer people. It may range from cultural, historical, features to natural or scenic beauty or recreational features. It means that tourists or those visiting the State might seek us out knowing that we might have a story to tell or something special to share along the highway," explained Casey. The Sterling Highway is known for its access to fishing and world class recreational facilities for canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, dog mushing, cross country skiing, and snow machining, which Casey says puts it in the running for the special designation. If the highway receives the Byway designation it would be eligible for a grant program that could provide funding for projects that can mitigate impact from tourists such as restrooms, or provide interpretive facilities or visitor centers to tell the Byway's unique story and make the travel experience better for everyone utilizing the highway between Homer and Anchorage. "One of the first things Byways usually do is use the program to help fund new signage that will help direct tourists to the special features and keep them from getting lost or missing an attraction along the way," said Casey.
The federal Byway program is very flexible and locally driven according to Casey, and no projects are mandated after having received the designation, "It's very grassroots oriented and quite unique to the federal highway administration. I feel we have a very good chance to receive the designation as we have a great package to offer." The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly agreed and recently passed a resolution in support of the application. Casey is putting together a plan for the application, "We are putting together a volunteer group from along the entire Sterling Highway corridor to work on a plan to identify opportunities, hopes and dreams of what can be along the highway. We'll put that into a written plan and then submit an application to the National Byway program," Casey told the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce. Anyone interested in commenting or working on the long term plan may contact Nancy Casey 260-8418.
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