By Vanessa Turner
A move to bring national attention to Calaveras County was solidified in Washington, D.C., Thursday as the Highway 4 Ebbetts Pass Corridor was officially designated a National Scenic Byway.
The long sought trademark makes Highway 4, from Arnold to Markleeville, the seventh stretch of road in the state to receive the title. The corridor has been a State Scenic Highway since 1971. Posters recognizing the new honor are already printed.
In April, a 50-page nomination package that included a detailed management plan was submitted to the Federal Highway Administration. It involved four years of work spearheaded by the Calaveras Council of Governments, the county´s transportation agency.
CCOG Executive Director George Dondero, who was in Washington for the designation ceremony, said, “It means we´re going to see more tourism … because it will be better known as a travel destination.”
National Scenic Byways are listed at www.byways.org and are included in many travel guides, Dondero said.
Along with the recognition comes grant money, he added, which will be used on a list of projects in the management plan. First a local committee will be created to prioritize those projects, some of which include, installing restroom facilities, telephones, and directional and interpretive signage.
“It will make a tremendous difference to the businesses up here,” said Vicky Johnson, manager of the Tamarak Lodge and Tamarak Pines Inn.
Johnson hopes the national attention will help draw visitors to the area year round.
“This area is under known,” she said. “We´d like to see continuality through the off season.”
Marla Allison, owner of Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods in Arnold, who campaigned for the designation, said she´s sure it will bring more attention.
“They´ll be able to market the area better,” she said. “We couldn´t be happier.”
Don Fry, Don Fry Realty in Arnold, agreed.
“It will give us some excellent publicity,” he said. “It will encourage people – knowing it´s so scenic – to utilize our beautiful pass here. I think it will get more skiers and campers, the whole works, up here. All of our businesses can use more tourist dollars.”
For his business in particular, Fry said, “It certainly helps. The more tourists who see our gorgeous area, the more chance I have to sell real estate.”
“We are absolutely thrilled,” he added.
“Spectacular” was the word Randy Hanvelt of the Bear Valley Music Festival used to describe the new label.
Hanvelt said the festival would market the title to encourage more people to come to the event.
“It´s an attraction that may bring people from out of state and they get to see a concert, too,” he said.
CCOG council member Michelle Plotnick, who also leads the Murphys Business Association, accompanied Dondero to Washington and said she was impressed with the ceremony and the sincerity of those involved.
Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta was supposed to lead the event but was tied up with the evacuation of residents for Hurricane Rita. In his place was George Schoener, Mineta´s deputy assistant secretary of transportation policy.
Alpine County Supervisor Terry Woodrow also attended and said, “It was very ceremonial, very impressive and very exciting for us.”
Reprinted with permission from The Calaveras Enterprise