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New Board Takes Lead on Scenic Byway

Scott Zuke

(2/22) February 20 marked the inaugural meeting of the Maryland Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway Advisory Board at the Mason and Dixon Discovery Center near Emmitsburg. The group, composed of representatives from across Frederick County with backgrounds in tourism, marketing, history and business, will meet regularly to help set the course for the development of the portion of the byway that runs along Route 15, bisecting Frederick County from the Mason Dixon line down to Point of Rocks.

“The effort is aimed at tourism and economic development, encouraging some of the many visitors that use this roadway when traveling to major tourist destinations to stop in the small towns and historic sites in Frederick County,” said Chris Haugh, Scenic Byway & Special Projects Manager for the Tourism Council of Frederick County, who led the meeting.

The 38-mile section of road, also called the Catoctin Mountain Highway, was originally designated as a National Scenic Byway in 2005 by the America’s Byways program under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. The program aims to preserve and enhance selected roads in the country that feature architectural, cultural, historic, and scenic qualities. There are currently 150 designated byways in the U.S., including six in Maryland.

The route includes sites ranging from the C&O Canal and B&O Railroad, to the towns of Thurmont and Emmitsburg, with Downtown Frederick, Rose Hill Manor, and the Catoctin Mountain Park in between. The Catoctin Furnace, located south of Thurmont, emblazons the byway’s logo.

In 2009 the route was expanded to run 180 miles from Gettysburg down to Monticello, VA., and was redesignated as the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway. The longer route holds more historic sites than any other in the country, according to America’s Byways, including points of interest relating to the War of 1812, Civil War, and U.S. presidential history.

Members on the new Advisory Board from the north county area include Mel Poole, from the Catoctin Mountain Park, Mike Irons, from the Ole Mink Farm resort in Thurmont, Bob Black of Catoctin Mountain Orchard, Thurmont Town Manager Bill Blakeslee, Rob Judge, from the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton National Shrine, John Howard of Emmitsburg, Dee Connolly from Antiques Folly in Emmitsburg, and Mike Hillman, the managing editor of this paper. Emmitsburg Town Planner Susan Cipperly will also serve on the Board as an ex-officio member.

The members will soon begin splitting into sub-committees to focus on specific areas, such as marketing, recreation, historic preservation, and seeking alternative funding sources, which has become increasingly important since the economic downturn has made federal funding more difficult to come by.

Although the byway program has a low profile among locals, it has been influential in subtle ways to guide the development and appearance of businesses along the roads, such as the new Wegman’s grocery store in Frederick. “Roadside character is very important to underscore our tourism marketing message,” Haugh said, noting that county and municipal planners can refer to that larger vision when calling for more aesthetic considerations on commercial properties.

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