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National Spotlight Sought For Ebbetts Pass

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A series of posters was unveiled this week, designed to call attention to the Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway if it receives a national designation.

With mountain scenes done in the style of 1930s steamer-trunk labels, the posters highlight qualities of the 58-mile stretch of Highway 4 from Arnold to Markleeville. They were developed by Chico State University graphic designers.

The National Scenic Byway program run by the Federal Highway Administration is the most prestigious and well-recognized byway program in the United States. Six California roads have the designation, including the Big Sur Coastline, Tioga Pass and Death Valley. The designation is akin to a five-star rating of a restaurant.

The Ebbetts Pass corridor has been a State Scenic Highway since 1971. State designation is needed for national designation. Also needed is a Corridor Management Plan.

For the past three years the Calaveras Council of Governments, has been working on the plan, which is up for consideration by Calaveras and Alpine county officials. The Calaveras Council of Governments is the county´s regional transportation agency, for now.

The plan goes to the Calaveras County Planning Commission at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 3. Once it is approved by both county´s Planning Commissions and Boards of Supervisors, COG staff members will submit the road for national designation through the Federal Highway Administration.

“I think it´s a great idea,” Marla Allison, owner of Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods in Arnold, said.

“There are people who look for scenic drives, so this will put us on the national map,” Allison said.

Allison was also on the committee that met to shape the byway plan. The committee was made up of business owners, community members, Forest Service officials, State Park officials and county Supervisor Merita Callaway.

Community workshops were also held to gather public input on the plan.

To be designated, a road must possess at least one of six intrinsic qualities identified by the Federal Highway Administration. They are archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic.

Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway has them all. Its features include Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Stanislaus and El Toiyabe National Forests, Bear Valley, Carson River, Pacific Crest Trail, Lake Alpine, Mosquito Lake, access to Grover Hot Springs State Park, Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Area, Mokelumne Wilderness Area, the Dorrington Hotel and stage stop, Chalmers Mansion, Silver Mountain City, Centerville, Emigrant Road and Big Trees/Carson Valley Road to name a few.

Having the national designation has its perks.

It would benefit the counties´ eco-tourism with free marketing exposure in guidebooks, maps and Web sites, planning documents said.

The recognition would make the byway eligible for several funding options and give leverage in seeking grants.

The corridor management plan identifies more than 25 potential funding sources.

An Ebbetts Pass Planning group, like the committee, made up of residents, businesses and county officials would oversee implementation of identified projects in the plan.

Some of those projects are to improve parking at the Pacific Crest Trailhead, develop gateways as entry points to the byway in Calaveras and Alpine Counties, provide wheelchair accessibility throughout Lake Alpine and Mosquito Lake area, and develop an interpretive brochure and tour.

“The nice thing about (the designation) is it will direct people so they´ll know what to look at and where to go,” Allison said.

A unique quality of the byway is its views, the plan said. They include granite outcroppings, ancient volcanic peaks, deep river canyons, glacial valleys, stands of old growth conifers and giant sequoias, open meadows, mountain lakes and streams and rivers.

Its recreational opportunities include camping, hiking, mountain biking, spelunking, wine tasting, fishing, swimming, snowmobiling, alpine and cross-country skiing, hunting, white-water rafting, canoeing and four wheeling.

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Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news,