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National Route 66 organization proposed June 21, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Preservation, Route 66 Associations.
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The formation of a new, national Route 66 organization was proposed during the Route 66 Summit on Thursday at the National Route 66 Festival in Clinton, Okla.

The organization would be similar to the old U.S. Highway 66 Association, which operated from 1927 to 1976, and the current-day Lincoln Highway Association, which has a paid executive director, office staff and representation from all the member states.

Michael Wallis, author of the best-selling “Route 66: The Mother Road,” advocated an “active, national organization governing the whole road with equal representation from each state on the highway.”

Forming a new national organization has taken on new urgency because the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program sunsets in 2010. Also, the National Historic Route 66 Federation has scaled back its activities, and one of its co-founders is in poor health.

Referring to the late national Route 66 boosters Jack and Gladys Cutberth of Clinton, Wallis said “we owe it to these people, the highway and the people eking out a living. … and we owe it to ourselves … to preserve this road.”

During the discussion, it was suggested that members not only include the road’s beloved mom-and-pop businesses, but also corporations, on a tiered membership-fee system. Some of that money would be funneled to Route 66 associations in the eight states.

Most attendees were strongly in support of a new national 66 group, including Swa Frantzen of Historic66.com. The Belgium resident said the many Europeans who travel the road would find it easier to use one Route 66 association as a clearinghouse for information. “It needs coordination,” he said.

Michael Taylor of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program advocated such a group, and said it would be a natural progression after the corridor program ends. He also noted that federal funding is available for start-up costs for such programs, and cited the Scenic Byways program as an example.

After the general discussion, a smaller group of members of the Route 66 state associations met with Wallis and Pam Lewis, Scenic Byways manager of the University of Oklahoma Outreach, to draft a proposal that will be sent to all the state associations for their consideration. A neutral Web site also will be set up so Route 66 advocates can exchange ideas about the proposal.

After the smaller meeting adjourned, Wallis said he was encouraged by the reaction to the idea for a national Route 66 organization.

“I was approached by people who were very enthusiastic,” he said. “We went a lot further than I anticipated, and I’m an optimistic guy.”

Comments»

1. MR 'Rug' Donster - June 28, 2008

Trying to centrally organize Route 66 groups is akin to herding cats. I imagine it would be a good idea, but what would it’s mission be? What would it do to add value to local Route 66 group’s efforts and work? Why would the federal government earmark funds for such a central group?

I’ve been a Route 66 fan since I was a kid in Chicago back in the 60′s. But I’m also a purist, and see the Route as a long road which connects many towns and place in several states. For me, driving it is and always has been what Route 66 is all about. That said, I find that the recent efforts to promote it are more about advancing local business interests than anything else. After attending the recent national 66 gathering in Litchfield I left feeling like I’d just been to a swap meet. Period cars, Harleys, sock hops and such aren’t what 66 is about. Nor is it about business people advancing it to make a buck. Those days are past.

After Litchfield I decided never to attend any further Route 66 events of any kind. Route 66 has indeed hit rock bottom if events like Litchfield are what is has become. Even the gathering of the leaders of the current Route 66 movement was all about business promotion. Not one mention about the state of the road, about efforts to keep it open, improved and viable. Nothing about working with federal and state highway departments to ensure the Route is maintained, or that even something simple like signage accomplished. I hate to rain on the management group’s parade, but Mr. Wallis and the leaders have become professional Route 66 people and seem to have lost interest in the road itself. Guess that issue doesn’t have a sponsor.

I’ll keep making trips on Route 66. But, I will no longer attend events or belong to any state 66 associations. I’m not a businessman, just a traveler. Our leaders are in this for a buck.

2. Ron - June 28, 2008

Rug said: “Our leaders are in this for a buck.”

Route 66 has always been a road of commerce. That was the way it was when the original Route 66 association existed, and that was its purpose — to promote the road and help the businesses along it.

That’s what the future alliance wants to do, also.

And money from those travelers who drive the road because of promotion keeps those old-time and mom-and-pop businesses alive that make Route 66 special, correct? You don’t think the Ariston Cafe is a nonprofit, do you?

Being a purist is no way to keep a historic road viable.


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