What is the Florida Department of Transportation Scenic Highways Program?
The mission of the FDOT Scenic Highways program is to "preserve, maintain, protect and enhance the intrinsic resources of scenic corridors through a sustainable balance of conservation and land use. Through community-based consensus and partnerships, the program will promote economic prosperity and broaden the traveler's overall recreational and educational experience." (Florida Scenic Highways Program Manual 1-3).
What corridors have been designated in Florida so far?
Currently, eight Corridors have been designated as Florida Scenic Highways. They are the Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway, located in the state's panhandle; the Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway, which passes through the Everglades region; Indian River Lagoon Scenic Highway, on Florida's Space Coast; Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway, on Anna Maria Island; Old Florida Heritage Highway in Central Florida; and A1A Ocean Shore Scenic Highway and A1A River to Sea Trail Scenic Highway, both in Flagler County on Florida's east coast; and the Florida Keys Scenic Highway.
Where is the Indian River Lagoon Scenic Highway?
The focus is on the principal natural features of east central Florida, the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic beaches. The corridor begins at Ais Lookout Point, just north of the intersection of Robert Conlan Boulevard and US1 in Palm Bay. Lagoon House, a gateway visitors information center, will be built at this location. The corridor proceeds south on US1 to the Wabasso Causeway (CR510), east across the causeway to SRA1A, north on A1A to Port Canaveral, west on SR 528 (the Bennett Causeway) to SR3, north to SR405 (the NASA Causeway), west to US1, north to SR 402/406, northeast to the Canaveral National Seashore, then south on the mainland to Ais Lookout Point to complete the circuit. The SR 520, SR404, SR 518, and US192 causeways are also included in the corridor as intermediate connectors. NASA KSC is planning an alternate to SR3, SPACE COMMERCE WAY, which will follow existing road beds and provide a scenic route through old-growth orange groves, wetlands and pristine forests left undeveloped because of acquisition by NASA. Cocoa and Rockledge have an alternate scenic route branching off of US1 on Forrest Avenue and Florida Avenue, which will display the historic sections of the cities. This is about 160 miles of roadways.
How and why did the Indian River Lagoon Scenic Highway program get started?
Ted Moorhead, a founding member of the Marine Resources Council, Florida Inland Navigation District Chairman and Manager of Public Relations for AJT & Associates, initiated the program. He recognized the potential of the FDOT Scenic Highways Program as a vehicle to increase and coordinate conservation efforts while promoting low-impact economic development built on ecotourism, heritage tourism and appropriate promotion of the excellent recreational resources of the area, to "sell the Indian River Lagoon not as a commodity to be consumed, but as a treasure to be preserved."
What was required to get designation as a scenic highway?
A Corridor Advocacy Group (CAG) was formed to prepare the application. The CAG followed the instructions in the FDOT Scenic Highways Manual, which includes identification of intrinsic resources, development of a plan to protect, preserve, maintain and enhance these resources, gain public participation and support for the project, and implementation of the plan for the corridor. Public workshops for disseminating information and receiving input were held. A Corridor Management Plan was developed and submitted to FDOT for approval, and a Corridor Management Entity (CME) was set up to implement the Corridor Management Plan. This process began at a meeting in Melbourne on April 14, 1999 and was rewarded by the designation on June 13, 2000 - 14 months. This was all done by volunteers, except for compilation and publication of the Corridor Management Plan by the staff of Brevard County Department of Parks and Recreation. The CME (now names The Indian River Lagoon Scenic Highway Coalition) operates under the auspices of the Marine Resources Council, a not-for-profit community advocacy organization for the Indian River Lagoon.
How is the Indian River Lagoon Scenic Highway Program Funded?
So far, mostly out of the pockets of those willing to do the work, plus in kind contributions of labor from various local government offices of those communities which have passed resolutions supporting the program. The only government money received was from FDOT for out-of-pocket expenses incurred by Brevard County Parks and Recreation in compiling and publishing the CMP.
The Federal Highway Administration National Scenic Byway Grant Program provides approximately $21 million a year for scenic byway programs nation wide. The City of Palm Bay submitted an application under this program to help fund the Lagoon House visitors center at Ais Lookout Point. There are many other grant programs for which project eligibility will be enhanced by being located on a designated scenic highway corridor. We have just completed a draft of a nomination for designation as a National Scenic Byway by the Federal Highway Administration. Deadline for final submittal is January 22, 2002. National designation would provide $25,000 per year for five years as seed money (with a 20% match required) to operate the program and accomplish the goals of the CMP.
What membership and authority will the CME have?
Each local general purpose government within the corridor is entitled to appoint two representatives to the CME. Each other government entity and community organization within the corridor willing to participate in the CME is entitled to appoint one representative. These appointed representatives comprise the voting body of the CME. The CME has now named itself The Indian River Lagoon Coalition. Any interested members of the public are invited to participate as non-voting members.
The CME has no authority to take land, impose regulations or taxes, or undertake construction projects. The CME is legally an ad hoc committee of the Marine Resources Council, a not-for-profit corporation. Most projects undertaken in the Scenic Highway Program would likely be undertaken by the city or county within which that project occurs, except that some projects, such as "Adopt a Highway" cleanup programs, would be done by community organizations. Community not-for-profit organizations may apply for some project grants for which they are eligible. There are some grant programs, such as the Florida Inland Navigation District Waterways Assistance Program, that not-for-profits may participate in so long as they have a local general purpose government sponsor.
What are the benefits of designation?
What are the impacts of a Scenic Highway designation?
Nation-wide, "Tourism-related business owners along a scenic highway estimated a ten percent increase in sales due to designation." (Florida Scenic Highways Program Economic Benefits Status Report, April 23, 1997). As to potential negative impacts, such as increased traffic or unwanted tourism-related development, there are no known authorized studies. The federal government does prohibit new outdoor advertising billboards (off business site) on primary-aid scenic highways. The challenge of the CME is to manage promotion of the corridor, traffic control and projects so as to maximize economic benefits and minimize negative impacts.
How can I get more information and participate?
Send tax deductible contributions to MRC.