Scenic byway

Thursday, May 27, 2004

For its supporters, creating a scenic byway along Crowley's Ridge sounded like a great way to boost the tourism economy in Southeast Missouri and attract visitors to see the beauty and rolling hills that the geological formation offers.

But the designation hasn't provided nearly the benefits that were expected.

A total of $60,000 from two grants was used to study the economic impact a scenic byway designation would have on Scott, Stoddard and Dunklin counties. Southeast Missouri State Uniersity conducted the research and also received a $10,000 donation to boost the byways project.

The study said all the right things:

A scenic byway designation for the stretch of Crowley's Ridge from Commerce, Mo., to the Arkansas border would bring in almost $32,000 per mile in tourism dollars. And federal and state grants would likely follow for improved roads and other projects.

But five years after the university study and two years since a portion of the route received its state byway designation, the only thing that's come from those efforts are a few signs in Dunklin County. Both Scott and Stoddard counties opted not to seek the scenic-byway designation, so Dunklin County connected its byway with similar efforts in Arkansas.

A scenic byway designation comes at both the state and national level. The Dunklin County route is part of the state system. A federally recognized Crowley's Ridge Parkway extends for 212 miles from Dexter, Mo., to Helena, Ark., and could be linked to the existing state route.

Has the money spent on economic impact studies and applications for the state designation been wasted? Backers say visitors won't come if no one is promoting tourism or the byway route.

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