WINDOW ROCK-Rural highways in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah cross through miles of scenic beauty, regional history and culture, recreational opportunities and archeological wonders. Driving on the highways and enjoying what they have to offer is a destination in itself.
If a road meets the criteria and is awarded the coveted title of Scenic Road or Byway, doors for funding begin to open. Funding from federal, state and tribal governments will become available to provide enhancements and development along the route. Quality of life enhancement and economic development are the concerns uniting communities, councils, counties, tribes and states.
There are several highways within the four states that have been designated as scenic roads or have committees currently working to achieve qualification. Linking the roads together, creating a network of highways, the Trail of the Ancients, is a topic on the minds of those who attended a meeting April 10 in Window Rock.
Verginia Yazzie, Navajo Nation Tourism and Coordinator for Navajo Nation Scenic Byway Program, brought together representatives from throughout the region to update one another on the status of projects in their respective areas, to identify needs and to pool resources for accomplishing their goals.
Cleal Bradford, executive director of Four Corners Heritage Council has been involved since 1992 and looks forward to having the scenic roads in all four states joined together. Bradford says when that happens, "the designation can be raised to All American Road" and funding will increase accordingly.
When the moratorium on scenic roads was lifted by the state of New Mexico five years ago, Evan Williams of Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments says they "began requesting and are still receiving funding from state legislation" for the Native Heritage Trail.
Tom Kennedy, Zuni Tourism Director, introduced a program linked to the scenic road. The McKinley County Cultural Enterprise Network will promote and support businesses, organizations, and individuals who provide a cultural or arts-related experience for visitors. The goal is "to encourage people to stay longer to visit these areas." All this will be accomplished through "integrating projects, funds and fiscal agents."
The National Park Service has a strong interest in the success of the program. Funds through Diné Tah Scenic Road will be generated to assist with restoration and improving recreational access in the Canyon de Chelly area.
In addition to Navajo Tourism staff, the Navajo Nation was well represented through Historic Preservation Roads Planning, Chinle Agency Department of Transportation, Fort Defiance Agency Department of Transportation, and Navajo Forestry.
For information on the Trail of the Ancients network of scenic roads, contact Verginia Yazzie at 928/810-8501.