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Santa Fe may ban motor vehicles in its Plaza April 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Road trips, Towns, Vehicles.
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Santa Fe, N.M., may curb motor vehicles in its downtown Plaza area, according to an op-ed piece written by former city councilor Frank Montano in the Albuquerque Journal.

The 1926-37 alignment of Route 66, aka the Santa Fe Loop, runs about a block south of the Plaza. However, El Camino Real – a road older than Route 66 — goes right by the Plaza, and would be of interest to many history-minded travelers.

Montano explained why cruising there is seen as a benefit:

This past Sunday, sitting on the Plaza, I saw six classic Corvairs traveling one behind the other on the roads of the Plaza. On that same Sunday, people of all ages drove the Plaza in their old classic cars, showing them off for all to see. In Santa Fe, at middle age, many people buy a Harley and cruise the Plaza. [...]

Last summer, a new tradition began when young ladies celebrating their Quinceanera began to stop on Lincoln Avenue in their rented stretch limos to walk to the Plaza Park and mingle with family, friends and other people. Photos were taken and people were curious as to what was happening.

During the holiday season, young families, seniors and people with disabilities travel the Plaza roads to admire the beautiful lights, the menorah and farolitos of the festive season.

Mayor Javier Gonzales submitted a proposal last week to close vehicular traffic in the Plaza by May 24. Montano says there’s been few public comments, despite the fact the plan has proceeded through two committees. And Montano, who operates a downtown tour business, claims tourists say the Plaza should stay open to traffic.

Montano encourages the public to give its opinion about closing the Plaza to cars. The emails to the mayor and councilors can be found here.

(Image of the Santa Fe Plaza by Don Graham via Flickr)

Holbrook marketing Route 66 more aggressively April 9, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events, Towns.

The Route 66 town of Holbrook, Ariz., is going to tout its Mother Road ties even more in the coming months, including a new festival, according to an article in the Arizona Journal.

The article contained a lot of interesting tidbits about Holbrook and nearby Winslow, Ariz., including these:

  • A number of new businesses have popped up along the Route 66 corridor in Winslow in the past year, including Dar’s Route 66 Diner, Route 66 Fizz’ n Cream, Los Maria’s restaurant, Arizona 66 Trading Co., Akoshilláa Sheila! gallery and Arizona Indian Art. 
  • Hopi Travel Plaza east of Holbrook is transforming its plaza to a Route 66 theme.
  • Along the route, Winslow added new sidewalks, new lighting and a Route 66 shield on the roadway at Second Street and Kinsley Avenue.
  • A new Route 66 festival, with the theme It Ain’t Your Mother’s Road Anymore, will be in Holbrook in August, right before the International Route 66 Festival in Kingman, Ariz.

And the story implies that movers-and-shakers in Holbrook will encourage businesses to open on Sundays. Numbers at the local visitors center show that is a busy day for tourists, but many places in town are closed. Pontiac, Ill., noting a similar problem, started encouraging its downtown businesses to open on Sundays for the same reason.

The impetus apparently came from the November roundtable for Route 66 stakeholders in Anaheim, Calif., in November and especially the Route 66 Economic Impact Report that documented travelers’ spending. Money talks.

I predicted the report would have a wide-ranging impact on many communities in terms of Route 66 promotions, infrastructure and perception. And it seems that is happening in Holbrook. Due to Holbrook’s proximity to the Petrified Forest National Park, it treated Route 66 respectfully but decidedly a second banana. Now it seems the townsfolk are giving the Mother Road considerably more attention.

(Image of the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Ariz., by Brett Kiger via Flickr)

Williams committees send mixed messages to Route 66 Zipline February 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Towns.
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By tomorrow, we should know whether the Route 66 Zipline will continue to run in Williams, Ariz. Recent votes by two commissions offer little guidance on how the city council will vote.

That’s because the Historic Preservation Commission unanimously voted earlier this month to deny the business a special-use permit. However, the Planning and Zoning Commission days later unanimously voted to approve the permit with special conditions attached.

The City Council probably will sort this out at 7 p.m. Thursday.

During the historic commission’s meeting, the main objection was the zipline didn’t “fit in” with downtown’s old-fashioned character. Yvette Hudson cited the city’s building code in her opposition:

“(The zone) is also intended that new or remodeled buildings, located within zoned historic districts, be designed and constructed to harmonize with buildings located within the immediate vicinity in order to preserve property values, to provide for future development and to promote an awareness of the heritage of Williams, Arizona among residents of and visitors to the community.”

However, just two residents at the meeting objected to the zipline continuing operations and seven favored giving the business another year. Thomas Ross, owner of I-40 Fleet Services, gave his reasons on why the zipline should stick around:

He added that the zipline might encourage people to make a loop around Route 66, seeing more than the usual ‘T’ they see from coming down Grand Canyon Boulevard and walking a short ways in each direction on Route 66.

“If people got to walk down to the end of the block to get on the zipline to ride, maybe they’ll cross over where the gas station is and they’ll pick up, ‘Oh look there’s some more souvenir shops’ and work their way back around,” he said.

At the planning and zoning meeting, the commission added these conditions to their votes in favor of the zipline:

The first was that the zipline company remove the white lettering on the tall poles that does not meet city regulations. The second was obtaining a performance bond, “in terms of protecting the city in case the organization becomes insolvent that we would be able to recover the damage,” Smiley explained.

It seems the performance bond became more of a priority after Route 66 Zipline didn’t generate much business as its owners forecast.

Planning commission chairman Buck Williams said he received six letters in favor of the zipline and one against.

Then Thomas Ross spoke up with an instructive comment — that many historical attractions on Route 66 were designed to get people “to pull over”:

“The zipline I think sort of fits in with our theme in Williams and along with Route 66, not just because of the old cars and the 50s and 60s music,” he said. “It kind of makes people take a break, and stop, and it’s just one more thing to do while you’re in Williams.”

Jerry Anthony added a related comment:

“What pays most of our salaries and our living and our way of life in Williams? Tourism,” he said. “And what draws tourism in? Attractions.”

I’ll admit to being indifferent to the zipline when it came to Williams and remaining so when it was voted on by the historic commission. But Ross’ remark provided a valuable reminder — that Route 66 isn’t unique just because of historic preservation, but also due to its kitsch factor.

The concrete dinosaurs in Holbrook, Ariz., the half-buried Cadillacs in Amarillo, the 66-foot-tall pop bottle in Arcadia, Okla., and a big blue whale in Catoosa, Okla., are as much a part of the Mother Road as its historic structures. And a few of them — such as the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, Calif. — are kitschy and on the National Register of Historic Places.

UPDATE 3/4/2014: The Williams City Council passed a compromise with the zipline’s owner so it would stay for two more years.

UPDATE 3/26/2014: The City Council approved a new lease with the zipline company, where its rent will double.

Has a sea change occurred with Route 66 tourism? February 17, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, Towns.
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About 100 residents of the St. Louis suburb of Crestwood, Mo., recently gave opinions on how to revitalize the Watson Road, aka Route 66, according to an article in Call Newspapers.

It’s encouraging enough so many showed up to an alderman’s town-hall meeting. But what intrigued me is so many people cited Route 66 as a way to revamp the corridor — including the idea of building a museum:

Residents liked the idea of branding and marketing Crestwood as a Route 66 tourist destination, possibly through a museum.

Some of the other possibilities they suggested include an entertainment complex or drive-in theater at the mall site with a name related to Route 66 or a trolley traveling up and down Watson Road. [...]

Truman Middle School social-studies teacher Jane Hake threw her support behind a Route 66 museum in Crestwood and offered to take any members of the crowd on a field trip to see a similar museum in Illinois that is popular with the thousands of people who travel the route each year. She also suggested that perhaps students from Lindbergh Schools could collaborate on a service-learning project to help research the city’s Route 66-related history.

There’s more in the article. Whether a Route 66 museum would be a good idea in Crestwood is debatable, especially considering Illinois has at least three.

But that’s not what struck me about the article. As one who lived in the St. Louis metro area for most of the 1990s and half of the following decade, I could attest the region — especially the Missouri side — showed mostly disinterest in Route 66. The way the nearby town of Marlborough, Mo., acted about its historic motels — including the long-gone Art Deco masterpiece, the Coral Court — you would have thought it wanted to erase them from memory.

But thinking in recent days about the Mother Road in general, it’s become clear Route 66 tourism has gained a lot more interest from its towns and cities. Maybe they’re seeing the success of towns such as Pontiac, Ill., Atlanta, Ill., and Seligman, Ariz., that embraced the Mother Road’s heritage. Or maybe city officials across the country were swayed by the Route 66 economic impact study from Rutgers University.

Something seems to be happening about the public perception of Route 66 tourism. Maybe it’s not a sea change, but it’s close.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Maybe I’m off my rocker. But it seems clear such interest in Mother Road tourism would have been unthinkable in many areas just 15 years ago, about the time I became interested in it.

(Image of the Crestwood Bowl sign in Crestwood, Mo., by Dave Fey via Flickr)

Arcadia in high-risk situation if nearby dam fails February 13, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Businesses, Towns, Weather.
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Reports from television sometimes tend to get a little hyperbolic. But this one from KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City about the Route 66 town of Arcadia, Okla., brings a new angle to the state’s newfound earthquake problem I hadn’t considered.

The gist: The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is increasingly concerned about earthquakes’ effects on nearby Arcadia Lake Dam and other dams. If the “high hazard” earthen dam in Arcadia Lake fails, there would be a “a probable loss of human life” and widespread property damage.

An Oklahoma County report also said the nearby Route 66 town of Luther also would be flooded.

When the dam was built in 1986, its designers didn’t consider the 4.0- and even 5.0-magnitude earthquakes that have plagued central Oklahoma shortly after injection wells started pumping used fracking fluids deep underground. It’s these injection wells that have drawn increasing blame for Oklahoma earthquakes.

Oklahoma once averaged just 50 earthquakes a year. In 2013, the number was more than 2,600.

In response to the new problem, KFOR reported:

Last year, the Oklahoma Water Resource Board passed a new rule requiring an unscheduled dam inspection if a magnitude 5.0 earthquake strikes within 50 miles of any dam structure.

Earthquakes also are the big reason I hold reservations about the running of the Keystone XL oil pipeline through Oklahoma, including under the Route 66 town of Stroud. Keystone’s own risk-assessment report from 2006 didn’t inspire much confidence. It said Oklahoma was not a “high earthquake hazard area” — something folks in Lincoln County would very likely dispute.

I’m not sure how much an Arcadia Dam failure would affect the town’s two biggest attractions — POPS and the 1898 Round Barn. During an 8- to 10-inch rainstorm a few years ago that flooded almost the entire valley, both POPS and the barn were on high enough ground they weren’t directly affected. But a dam failure is a whole ‘nother ballgame.

(Image of Arcadia’s Round Barn by Travel Aficionado via Flickr)

Fundraising goal reached for Route 66 roadside park February 6, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, History, Restaurants, Towns.
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A Route 66-themed roadside park planned in Springfield, Mo., has more than reached its $15,000 fundraising goal with two days remaining, reported KOLR-TV in Springfield.

Springfield-based CrowdIt.com, a crowd-funding online service, helped spur the campaign.

Here’s the station’s report:

The campaign included this very cool promotional video:

Because the campaign raised extra money with two days remaining, the city says it’s considering extras with the roadside park.

The roadside park, which includes a re-creation of the sign from the long-gone Red’s Giant Hamburg restaurant, will be part of improvements to the College Street corridor between Grant and Kansas Expressway.

The City of Springfield in general wants to revitalize College Street and reflect its Route 66 heritage. The city is regarded as the “Birthplace of Route 66″ because it was there on April 30, 1926, that officials proposed the name of the new Chicago-to-Los Angeles highway.

(An artist’s rendering of one area of the Route 66 Roadside Park in Springfield, Mo.)

Professional baseball will return to Joplin January 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Sports, Towns.
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As expected, the City of Joplin, Mo., approved a lease this week with an independent professional baseball team from El Paso, Texas, to move into and renovate century-old Joe Becker Stadium, reported the Joplin Globe.

The newspaper reported details of the arrangement:

The lease requires the city to spend $4 million enlarging and updating the stadium. The baseball partners are to spend $5.3 million in building an entry plaza that eventually is to have a ticket booth, management office, restaurants and some loft apartments in addition to parking lots in the surrounding area. [...]

“There’s opportunity here, and we’re really excited to be here come 2015,” when the as yet unnamed baseball team would start play if the city proceeds with the remaining legal work.

The owners already have posted artist’s renderings of the renovated ballpark and plaza on the team’s Facebook page:

The owners have asked Joplin residents to offer a new name for the team. Chances are locals will favor Joplin Miners — the former name of the city’s Yankees affiliate during the 1940s and ’50s. Future Baseball Hall of Fame members Mickey Mantle and Whitey Herzog played for the Miners.

The artist’s rendering of the plaza suggests a statue of Mantle will be placed there. The statue wears No. 7 on its uniform, the same as Mantle’s with the Yankees. In 1950. Mantle hit .383 with 26 homers and a .638 slugging average in 137 games with the Miners. Mantle grew up in the nearby Route 66 town of Commerce, Okla., and played baseball as a 15-year-old with a semipro team in nearby Baxter Springs, Kan. — also on Route 66 — before going to the majors.

The owners had better not forget Herzog, who remains beloved in Missouri because of his stints as manager of the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals, including winning a World Series title in 1982 with the latter.

Residents may make nickname suggestions on the team’s Facebook page or by emailing joplinprofessionalbaseball(at)gmail(dot)com. At least two Route 66-related names — the 66ers and Cruisers — are suggested, although an NBA development team in Tulsa and a minor-league baseball team in San Bernardino, Calif., use the 66ers name.

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