Ohio River Scenic Byway

Westerly Group holds focus groups
for interpretive signs

By Don Ward

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 nation’s 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.

Scenic Byway
Ohio 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 toward Jeffersonville.
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 Group.
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 it’s 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 group’s 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 instance.
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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