Pennsylvania Route 6... scenic indeed as one traverses its 19th century towns, passes farmlands, cliffs, woodlands, winding rivers, historic landmarks, hills and dales. Eleven counties and 417 miles... along the route is Hawley Borough, where its elected leaders are mulling an offer to make it official and name it a Scenic Byway.
This designation being promoted by the Pennsylvania Route 6 Alliance is designed as a way to promote tourism and encourage municipalities to safeguard those resources that make it such a special route. The Alliance has its office in Galeton, Potter County, about half way across the northern tier of the state on Route 6.
County Planning Department directors for the 11 counties were asked by the Alliance to help explain the project, which asks municipalities along the way to participate by passing resolutions.
Edward Coar, Wayne County Director of Planning cautioned that there is more to consider than just designating the roadway as scenic. He told Council on Nov. 13th that he insisted to the Alliance that he would provide "full disclosure so that municipalities have more than one side of the story."
Portions of PA Route 6, including the corridor from Honesdale through White Mills to Hawley, have already been recognized as part of the PA Route 6 Heritage Corridor. Also promoted by the Alliance, this is a state program that seeks to draw attention to the area's unique historic resources, to benefit the economy and tourism.
Coar said that the Scenic Byway designation is part of a federal program and carries more regulation.
He noted that PA Route 6 has already been hailed as a scenic driving destination by National Geographic Traveler, Car & Driver Magazine and Harley Davidson.
A 2008 study showed that PA Route 6 annually draws 3.5 million visitors; direct visitor spending is estimated at $91 million, supporting 2,172 jobs along the route.
Scenic Byways are designated in Pennsylvania by PennDOT following an application from a government entity or legislative action. PA Route 6 Alliance is looking for full participation across the state. The Alliance would submit the application to PennDOT.
The next step would be for a Corridor Management Plan to be developed by the Route 6 municipalities. This plan is required by the Federal Register. The written plan specifies the actions, procedures, controls, operational practices and administrative strategies needed to maintain the Byway's qualities.
These include scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archaeological and natural resources.
PennDOT in turn would submit an application to the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) for federal designation. With a commitment by local municipalities to preserve their segment of the route, the PA Route 6 Scenic Byway would receive a "National Scenic Byway" designation.
Page 2 of 2 - Coar outlined numerous issues that must be considered. These include more regulation of private lands and more responsibilities on local governments to manage land uses. Although each municipality has a chance for input, the corridor management plan will be crafted by a committee which may include aspects not satisfactory to individual municipalities.
The local municipality would retain authority over approving or disapproving a development project, but the Scenic Byway designation would need to be upheld. If not, it could open the municipality to ongoing battles from special interest advocacy groups.
A resident opposing a land use proposal could reference the Scenic Byway designation, saying the Borough wasn't meeting the Byway criteria.
Full participation by the 110 municipalities on Route 6 is expected by the Route 6 Alliance, which Coar said will be a "tough sell." Coar made the same presentation in Palmyra Township (Wayne) where the supervisors did not show any interest.
Coar stated that adopting the Scenic Byway label would not detract from the Heritage Corridor designation, which can already aid their marketing efforts.
The Scenic Byway designation would prohibit new billboards along Route 6, he said.
Local municipal controls are already available through the PA Municipalities Planning Code- applied to zoning and subdivision ordinances. Coar said that the Scenic Byway, however, would bring potential influence by anyone along Route 6 "from the Ohio to the New York border" since the same management plan would be in force.
Coar later explained that some see a regional approach to land use management as a positive thing, but clashes with those believing local controls are best done by local government.
Simon Knox asked who would pay to have the management plan written. Coar said that the Alliance hoped to find grant funding.
Coar added that there is little additional opportunity for grant funding for a municipality just because of the Scenic Byway label. "There's not a lot of money out there," he said.
Waymart Borough has already signed the resolution for the Scenic Byway, as well as previously adopting the Heritage Corridor designation.
Hawley Council Vice-president Mary Sanders advised investigating the proposal further. Councilwoman Elaine Herzog said that the designation was needed.