ST. GEORGE — State Route 9, the road leading to Zion National Park, has recently been recognized as a National Scenic Byway.
The National Scenic Byway Foundation announced Wednesday that the Federal Highway Administration named SR-9 between La Verkin and the Zion National Park east entrance, also known as the Zion Scenic Byway, as one of 34 newly designated National Scenic Byways and All-American Byways across the United States.
Under the National Scenic Byways Program, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads based on their archaeological, cultural, historical, natural, recreational and scenic qualities, according to a statement from the National Scenic Byway Foundation. To be designated as a National Scenic Byway, a road must possess at least one of the six intrinsic qualities and be regionally significant.
“This just helps more people recognize the beauty of the area we’ve always known,” Washington County Commission chair Gil Almquist said. “It’s a highway gem.”
The National Scenic Byways Program, established by Congress in 1991 and administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, was created to preserve and protect the nation’s scenic byways while also promoting tourism and economic development.
“America’s Byways are roads to the very heart and soul of America,” Chris Sieverdes, National Scenic Byway Foundation president, said in Wednesday’s statement.
“Byways connect us to this country’s beauty, history, and culture,” Sieverdes said. “As the National Voice of Scenic Byways and Roads, NSBF is excited to welcome these new designees, and we look forward to working with them, as well as those previously designated, to preserve our nation’s past while looking towards the future for our grandchildren and their children.”
A complete list of America’s All-American Roads and National Scenic Byways can be found on the foundation’s website. The Zion Scenic Byway is the sixth roadway in Utah to be recognized in this capacity, according to the website.
Prior to the national designation, the Zion Scenic Byway was named as a state scenic byway by the Utah Legislature in 1990.
The Town of Springdale website describes the scenic byway as follows:
The Byway showcases incredible scenery with towering sandstone cliffs and majestic mesa. The Virgin River runs alongside the Byway and offers opportunities for recreation, as well as important riparian habitat for wildlife. Historical and cultural amenities are scattered throughout the Byway corridor. The Grafton ghost town, historic cemeteries and well-preserved historic homes and buildings all are reminders of the area’s history of settlement. Archeological resources preserve the story of the region’s earliest inhabitants. Hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, river tubing and a host of other activities provide recreation options for every ability and interest.
The application for the national scenic byway designation was originally submitted by the Zion Canyon Corridor Council in 2008. The council was succeeded by the Zion Regional Collaborative which continued the push for the national designation.
According to a state document, designation of the Zion Scenic Byway as a national scenic byway will have a positive impact on the region, including additional federal funding for the roadway, increased marketing through the National Scenic Byways Program and increased tourist visitation and spending.
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