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11/23/2009 Times & Democrat: Edisto Island: A national treasure: 17-mile stretch of S.C. Highway 174 gains federal Scenic Byway designation
By Edward Fennell
The U.S. Department of Transportation has made a 17-mile stretch of the highway the fourth road in South Carolina to get the prestigious designation. The new Scenic Byway, which in 1988 was designated a state scenic highway, winds through salt marshes, creeks, maritime forests, farm fields and historic churches, from the McKinley Washington Bridge to Palmetto Boulevard on Edisto Beach.
National Scenic Byways are described by transportation authorities as exceptional roads through areas that exemplify regional characteristics and possess distinctive cultural, historic, natural or other qualities.
"This puts Scenic 174 into the league of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Alaska Marine Byway, the Selma to Montgomery March Byway, the Mount Hood Scenic Byway and Route 66," said Bud Skidmore, a lifetime Edisto resident. "This says to the world what a special place we live in, invites them to visit and encourages us to keep it as it is."
Skidmore is a member of the Edisto Island Open Land Trust, which spearheaded efforts to get the federal designation.
"It's a dream come true for the community," said Marian Brailsford, executive director of the Land Trust. She said the designation will greatly aid efforts to preserve Edisto's history, which dates to the colonial era, and its architecture and unique vistas.
"It means the rural character and scenic beauty of Edisto is not going to change. It means Highway 174 is going to remain a winding road through a rural area interspersed with marvelous views of the marsh and of moss-draped canopies," she said.
Brailsford said the designation will generate jobs and tourism, especially related to environmentally friendly boating and sailing excursions, biking and kayaking trips, and water sports.
"It's going to bring in more people that love the things that we love," Brailsford said. "There are a lot of sites and landmarks all over the island that people will want to see. Every square foot of Edisto Island is hallowed ground."
Edisto Island is part of the internationally known ACE Basin.
Brailsford said new signs will be posted beside the new federally designated byway, and a formal dedication ceremony may be held later this year.
Brailsford said getting federal byway designation was a goal when the Land Trust in 2003 applied for federal funding for a Highway 174 Corridor Management Program. Nearly 300 people worked to get the designation, which the trust applied for in 2007.
"It's been a two-year labor of love," Brailsford said.
"This is a much sought-after designation with national and international significance," said Tesa Griffin, scenic byways coordinator for the S.C. Department of Transportation. "For South Carolina to now have four National Scenic Byways is impressive and exciting."
The other National Scenic Byways in South Carolina are the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway, Savannah River National Scenic Byway and Ashley River
Road National Scenic Byway.
Becoming a National Scenic Byway
For a road to become a National Scenic Byway, it must first be designated a State Scenic Byway.
South Carolina Department of Transportation has partnered with the South Carolina Scenic Highways Committee to designate 20 routes on more than 415 miles of Scenic Byways throughout the state of South Carolina. Visitors can enjoy significant scenic, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, commercial and economic destinations along these routes and the surrounding areas.
A list of Scenic Byways in South Carolina is available at scdot.org/community/scenic_byways.shtml.