Washington State’s newest Scenic Byway is also the state’s first scenic route to include a “marine highway,” which is an historic canoe route of the Coast Salish peoples. The 2008 Washington State Legislature granted the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway the ability to pursue funding as a State Scenic Byway during their last week in session. The route includes the Washington State Ferries’ Anacortes/San Juan Islands route, stops at Lopez, Shaw, Orcas, and San Juan Islands, as well as County roads on Orcas and San Juan Islands.
“This new designation will help us educate visitors through stewardship principles regarding the beautiful and unique sea and land routes of the islands,” said Deborah Hopkins, Scenic Byways leader and Executive Director of the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau. “For us, the byway process is a way to preserve and protect our fragile environment and the character of island life through education and interpretation.”
With designation as a State Scenic Byway, the byway organization will be eligible to apply for National Scenic Byway grants. In 2007, more than $2 million in federal funds were made available to Washington’s Scenic Byways. These funds go directly to the local communities along the byway for projects in their Corridor Management Plan.
The San Juan Islands Scenic Byway organization has set three goals for their route:
Education: To educate the public regarding islanders’ priorities in protecting and preserving the unique environment, natural resources, visible wildlife, scenic vistas and quality of life through interpretive signage.
Economic Development: To enhance visitor interest in the San Juan Islands as a destination of natural scenic beauty, cultural significance and recreational opportunities.
Funding: To bring federal funding resources to San Juan County in order to support and enhance natural, cultural and historical educational programs, signage, and facilities, along the Scenic Byway.
The San Juan Islands Scenic Byway organization will begin developing a Corridor Management Plan that will detail specific projects along the route. The organization is also hosting a State scenic byway workshop in early May. Registration is on April 30, with sessions on San Juan Island on May 1 and on Orcas Island on May 2. The workshop is open to byway leaders and coordinators from around the State, as well as San Juan Islanders involved in the new byway.
The National Scenic Byways Program is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. The program was established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States. Known as “America’s Byways,” roads in the Scenic Byways program are cherished for their scenic, natural, recreational, historic, cultural or archaeological qualities. For additional information about the National Scenic Byways Program and the newly designated Washington routes, visit www.byways.org