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
"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
"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
"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."