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Monett grad is at center of Route 66 preservation effort

Friday, January 22, 2010

(Photo)
Landscape architect and Monett High School graduate Jerany Jackson, at center, was one of the presentators at a public program in Mt. Vernon on a corridor management plan being developed for the preservation of Historic Route 66 in Lawrence County. Public presentations by Great River Engineering on the plan will be given this week in Carthage and Springfield.
Over the years, enthusiasts for Route 66 have done much to preserve the memory of the historic roadway. Books have been written. The Route 66 Association has organized to preserve it. Now the next steps are being taken to gain All-American Road status, and a Monettan is in the thick of the work.

The not-for-profit Route 66 Association of Missouri, a largely unfunded organization run by volunteers, applied to have the road declared a Missouri byway in 2005. A federal grant was subsequently awarded to get national byway status. For Route 66 to be declared an All-American Road, a corridor management plan (CMP) has to be done.

"Springfield is the birthplace of Route 66," said Jerany Jackson, a landscape architect with Great River Engineering in Springfield. "The Route 66 Association needed a consulting firm to do the study. We want that claim to fame."

Jackson, a 1982 Monett High School graduate, said Great River assembled a team and won the contract in a national competition. Great River is organizing public hearings in each of the 10 counties where the highway runs, compiling information about the road's contribution to local development. Jackson led a recent meeting in Mt. Vernon.

"I've known about Route 66 since I was a child," Jackson said. "Each experience on the road was different, especially as the seasons changed. My family would drive to Texas in the winter. I remember the 'bump-ba-bump' sound driving over the concrete seams putting me to sleep. I'm passionate about the project. I haven't talked to one person who doesn't get immediately nostalgic remembering Route 66."

Route 66 catered to public needs, Jackson said, bringing transportation and the growth of local business that people wanted. Towns, motor courts, gas stations and fast food restaurants sprung up along the route.

"Route 66 is truly a 20th Century road, a byway," said Tommy Pike, president of the Route 66 Association of Missouri, at the Lawrence County meeting.

Jackson said Great River's job is to document what that means and show its significance. The road goes through 60 cities and six ghost towns.

"Missouri points on Route 66 have spectacular vistas," Jackson said, "places where there's no development to historic bridges and beautiful river valleys. Lawrence County was founded on mining and agriculture. If you travel down Historic Route 66 today, you can see old farmsteads with big beautiful barns. On plateaus you can see beautiful fields open up."

In each county, the firm is seeking out values of the road, including cultural, recreational, archeological, scenic, historic and natural.

Lawrence County is the most rural county on the route, where Halltown is the most urban center. The highway travels across the county on what is now Highway 96. Great River has identified six points of interest in each county that represent cultural landmarks. Jackson said they had no trouble identifying places of significance in Lawrence County.

In the ghost town of Spencer, for example, the original hand-troweled concrete section of road is still intact. It is one of the few places on the route in Missouri not overlaid with asphalt, Jackson said.

Global positioning coordinates are being taken for each location cited by Great River. At many points along the route, construction prompted alternate routes, some which stayed in place for years, long enough for new businesses to pop up. Jackson said no definitive map showing Route 66 and all its alternates has ever been developed.

Federal money has paid for new blue-and-white signs showing the alternates. Jackson said the Missouri Department of Transportation has worked with the Route 66 Association in putting up the alternate route signs.

Earning federal All-American Road status requires proof that two of the intrinsic values can be found in the preserved stretch of highway. Jackson believes all six can be found in Lawrence County alone.

Part of the purpose of public meetings has been to stimulate public interest in preserving Route 66.

"The generations that ensure we don't lose the highway are much younger," Jackson said. "We need to appeal to a younger generation."

Great River has created a mascot to visualize the effort for children. The theme song to the early 1960s TV show "Route 66" used the lyric, "Get your kicks on Route 66." Today, "kicks" also refers to a person's shoes. A figure, wearing big shoes, was developed as a mascot and named Mo' Kicks.

Mounted on a foam board, a four-foot high rendering of Mo' Kicks was brought to the Lawrence County public meeting at the Mt. Vernon library. Jackson said children in the library immediately responded to the figure. Great River hopes to hold a contest in schools across the state to name Mo' Kicks' pal who will represent each county in the project.

Great River is creating an interactive map for internet use that will show Historic Route 66 in each county. Points of interest can be located on the map, available on the internet at http://route66.greatriv.com.

"We need public input," Jackson said. "We need the public to tell us why Route 66 is important. We're asking people to tell us the story about the points of interest and what they want to see preserved."

Jackson said it has been fun for her to work on a project that impacts her home area. Copies of the plan will be distributed nationally and internationally.

"It's been an incredible journey," she added.

For more information, contact Jackson at 417-886-7171.

POINTS OF INTEREST ON HISTORIC ROUTE 66 IN LAWRENCE COUNTY

1) White Hall in Halltown. The building owner attended the public hearing on the corridor management plan in Mt. Vernon.

2) The town of Spencer, now a ghost town. Located south of Highway 96 on a secondary road near the Johnson Creek bridge, Spencer has several buildings still standing. "It's awesome, one of the coolest places in the state," said Jerany Jackson, with Great River Engineering.

3) Sinclair station on Highway 96, one mile from Spencer. The station has been restored by owner Gary Turner, who has created a website for it at http://www.gayparitasinclair.com. "It's one of hundreds of really nice places we inventoried," Jackson said. "His place is one where you want to get out and take a souvenir photo."

4) Moot's Garage, west of Miller. A stop for the Avilla Bus Line, the garage represented the transportation systems of the era.

5) Old church at Phelps. The church represents a man-made scenic place. Jackson said the church, besides representing a cultural gathering place, stands without detractions built around it, a perfect postcard setting.

6) The truss bridge over Turnback Creek. Jackson said the bridge is particularly outstanding as a scenic spot and as an example of a rural bridge from the period.



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