Louisiana's byways highlight heritage

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BATON ROUGE -- When it comes to highways and byways these days, Louisiana is big on the byways.

The state Office of Tourism's Scenic Byways Program, which it launched in 1991, is designed to call attention to the wealth of tourist attractions and beautiful scenery that exists throughout Louisiana -- especially that which is found off the beaten paths, away from the heavily traveled interstate highways.

Besides a way to generate new tourist traffic, the program also offers opportunities to preserve, protect and enhance the natural beauty of the byway areas and foster better understanding of the state's heritage.

Recreational opportunities for visitors and residents have also evolved from the program. So far, there are 15 designated Scenic Byways in the program. See list on facing page.

Components of the plan for each byway include:

  • Designating the roads to be included in the byway.
  • Identifying the attractions to be promoted.
  • Placing road signs every seven miles marking the route.
  • Establishing a low-frequency radio channel that provides information about the byway and its attractions.
  • Printing and distributing brochures with maps, photos and attraction descriptions.
  • Advertising and promoting the byways.
  • Constructing kiosks (unmanned information stations) that feature audio and visual aids to understanding how to get around on the byways and what to see.
  • Each of the byways is managed by the local tourist commission. Ty Bromell, administrator of the Scenic Byways program, said, "Nothing would excite me more than to have lots of motorcoaches visiting our Scenic Byways. Those passengers would create the best word-of-mouth once they see the beauty of Louisiana."

    Bromell said some of the byway routes do have facilities for motorcoaches, such as the Creole Nature Trail, which he added was the first national nature trail. "Over in Cameron Parish, the Creole route has pulloffs to accommodate buses and there are a few stores. In addition, there is a ferry/barge that buses can fit on to cross the river. There also is a refuge down there where motorcoaches can pull up, take a walking tour and get back on and continue the route."

    According to an official with the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission, which handles the Zydeco Cajun Prairie byway route, early indications are that the project is a boon.

    "We are fairly new as a scenic byway," said Celeste Gomez, director of public information for St. Landry Parish. In 1996 we were designated and in 1998 received funding. We have a real lively route through the backroads and are very accessible. The major state highways cut through here, which means that motorcoaches will have no problems," she said.

    These highways include Highway 13 and Interstate 90.

    The proposal for the Bienville Trace Scenic Highway 1 project comprised 502 miles and covered 11 parishes. This route has been in the program for about five years, according to Kenneth Newman, a planner of the route who wrote and filled in the inventory for the route.

    Linda Curtis Sparks, executive director of the Sabine River Authority, where the Toledo Bend Forest Byway runs, said efforts are under way to improve facilities for motorcoaches and other vehicles. "We do have paved pulloffs for buses and other visitors. But currently we have about 15 miles of the route under construction and we are working on plans for aesthetic improvements of the facilities," she said.

    Sparks said the route runs parallel to the Toledo Bend Reservoir, which is 76 miles. "It's a very scenic drive, but you don't get to see much of the reservoir."

    The byways program is administered by the the state tourism office and the Department of Transportation.

    Louisiana Office of Tourism

    Phone: (800) 633-6970 or (504) 342-8100

    Web: www.state.la.us/crt/tourism.htm

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