River Scenic Byway
Group holds focus groups
for interpretive signs
MADISON, Ind. (October 2004) Those of us living
in the Ohio RIver valley may often take the scenic beauty for granted.
But to those traveling through or visiting the area, the Ohio River
offers a history lesson in our nations early settlement and lifestyle.
To help document those sites and historic moments in time, and to educate
visitors passing through, a series of interpretive signs will soon be
created and erected along the Ohio River Scenic Byway. A driving tour
brochure already is available to motorists who want to learn more about
areas along the 981-mile Byway, which runs through Ohio, Indiana and
Illinois. Madison, Ind., lies at the heart of this route, which begins
in Steubenville, Ohio, in the east and ends in Cairo, Ill., to the west.
River Scenic Byway.
Under the National Scenic Byways Program, the U.S. Secretary
of Transportation recognizes roads that are outstanding examples of
scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archaeological and/or natural
quality by designating them as either National Scenic Byways or All-American
Roads. The 308-mile Indiana portion of the Ohio River National Scenic
Route in 1996 was the first road in the country designated as a National
Scenic Byway by the federal government. The Ohio and Illinois portions
were designated in 1998.
The route is identified along the roadways by Ohio River Scenic
Byway markers. Locally, in southern Indiana, that route begins
in Lawrenceburg to Aurora on Hwy. 50, then onto Hwy. 56 traveling west
through Rising Sun, Vevay, Madison and Hanover, then south on Hwy. 62
Money has been provided from the federal transportation department to
pay for the interpretive signage project.
To collect input on what areas deserve interpretive signs in southern
Indiana, and what information to put on them, a series of six focus
groups are being held by The Westerly Group, a Madison-based consulting
firm hired to design the signage for the federally funded project. The
third of these focus groups was held Sept. 9 at the Madison City Hall.
Officials from various Southern Indiana counties representing tourism,
historical organizations and the Big Oaks Wildlife Refuge took part
in the session, led by John Nyberg and Camille Fife of The Westerly
Interpretive signs are located at or near the sites and can accommodate
about 200 words, Nyberg told the group of about 20 people. They are
usually 24x36 or 36x48 in size and are angled and usually erected on
top of a waist-high pole.
Among the signage criteria include the following: 1. must be a nonprofit
organization; 2. must be on-site, not directional in nature; 3. must
be erected in a public right-of-way or on land owned by a municipality.
Nyberg said the signage will affect about 13 Indiana counties, with
an average of five signs per county. Fife said there was no limit on
the number of signs, if warranted. Part of the benefit to a county is
that it may entice people to stay longer, visit more and spend money
in the process.
Each panel has certain themes associated with it, Fife said.
Remember its always about the river. But it can be located
a little ways off the river. This is a gathering of the tales.
Nyberg first explained what interpretive signage is and what elements
go into designing it. He then catalogued from the groups participation
as many items as possible that would be considered for future signage
along the Byway.
Aside from the obvious tourism attractions already promoted in Madison
and Switzerland County, the group identified many other places and historic
events relating to natural beauty, wildlife resources, Civil War and
Underground Railroad history in the area. The signs can interpret places
and events as far as 10 miles from the river, Nyberg said. This would
include military history at the former Jefferson Proving Ground, for
Linda Lytle, the executive director of the Madison Area Convention and
Visitors Bureau, sits on the Scenic Byways Committee and said the group
originally had considered designing and promoting a bicycle trail along
the route. But the group has now turned its attention to promoting an
arts route instead. This would promote artists and galleries along the
route, she said.
It would be next year at the earliest for any of these new signs to
start appearing along the roadways, Fife said.
For more information about the Ohio River Scenic
Byway, call Nyberg at (812) 273-8826 or visit: www.ohioriverscenicroute.org.
Or visit: www.byways.org.
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