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Highway 25-E now at National Scenic Byway

PHOTO SUBMITTED

Cocke County Tourism Director Linda Lewanski, left, a member of the Highway 25/E Scenic
Byway committee, presented Federal Highway Administration official Vincent Mendez a basket
of items on behalf of the local Byways group during presentation ceremonies Friday morning
in Washington, D.C. Among the highways receiving Scenic Byways status was Highway 25/E
which traverses Cocke County.

Published: 2:40 PM, 10/17/2009
 

Author: Duay O'Neil
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

WASHINGTON, DC-It's official.

After six years of work by a group of people in five East Tennessee counties, Hwy. 25/E has been named a National Scenic Byway.

The official announcement came during ceremonies Friday morning in Washington, D. C.

Representatives from Cocke, Jefferson, Hamblen, Grainger, and Claiborne Counties have worked since 2004, partnering with local, state, and federal officials to secure the highway's designation.

The National Scenic Byways Program is a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration. It is a grass root collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States.

Since 1992, the NSBP has provided funding for almost 1500 state and nationally designed byways projects in 48 states.

To be named a National Scenic Byway, a road must meet certain criteria based on one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities.

The local group's efforts to have Highway 25/E added to the prestigious list included an aim to continue an existing Byway, the Wilderness Road Heritage Highway that stretches from Berea, Kentucky to the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, south along Highway 25/E to the Cherokee National Forest in Cocke County.

"We are so thrilled to have received our designation as a Scenic Byway," said Cocke County Tourism Director Linda Lewanski, who traveled to Washington on Friday to accept the plaque designating the highway's status.

"This is a project that all five counties have been working on for almost six years. So, finally, the East Tennessee Crossings Byway (the official name of the stretch of Highway 25E in the program), is official!

"With marketing monies provided to us, we now face the challenge of telling our story of this roadway, and really the region, to the visitor. Our goal from the beginning was to preserve, embrace, and celebrate the history of the Highway 25/E corridor. We can't wait!

"I want to thank Mayor Iliff McMahan, Jr. and Cocke County Partnership President Don Hurst, who have both encouraged and supported this project from the beginning," she added. "Again it is amazing what can happen when you work together in partnership!"

Project consultant John Whiteman added, "The designation of the East Tennessee Crossing Byway (Highway 25/E) is a great reward for all the hard work that so many people in these counties have put in for the past several years. The designation clearly demonstrates the nationally unique story that this region offers travelers. Joining the America's Byways program will be one of many accomplishments for this corridor as it works to become a more well known highway as a travel destination."

"We are so pleased that the Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Commission have awarded us this designation," said Cocke County Partnership President Don Hurst.

"This project's ultimate goal is to spark economic development through the designation and increased tourism dollars. We can say it is really a transportation planning program which will benefit the region for years to come. I congratulate Linda and all the counties involved on such a splendid result to their hard work!"

Lewanski, who served as the local group's secretary, said that with the designation come increased opportunities for marketing dollars and grants.

"Tennessee has not had a highway added to the list in ten years," she added, "but this year there have been two, the other one being in West Tennessee."

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