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Scenic Wisconsin

An Affiliate of Scenic America

Byways and Roads

Scenic Byways - The Great River Road

Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin strongly supports the National Scenic Byways Program along with the WisDOT Scenic Byways Program. Many people are surprised to learn that Wisconsin has only one nationally designated Scenic Byway, the Great River Road, from the Iowa border north through Cassville, Prairie du Chien, La Crosse to Prescott. This is an original Scenic Byway designated 70 years ago before we had an Interstate system.

Many of the other scenic routes such as the Great Lakes Circle Tour and the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive are not nationally designated as one of America's Byways® and thus do not have the protections, marketing programs or access to FHWA grants for infrastructure improvements.

Currently there is a State Highway 60 Scenic Byway project from Lodi to Bridgeport that is in the process of being approved and a new proposal just getting started for State Highways 33 & 136 from Portage to La Crosse. Both of these routes would connect to the Great River Road, thus enhancing their marketability.

The purposes of the Scenic Byway designation are:

    Encourage tourism and supports economic development in communities all along a designated byway.

    Promote partnerships between local governments, businesses, civic groups and community leaders.

    This combined effort encourage development of a shared community vision, strengthens civic pride, and makes communities an even more attractive place to live and work.

The benefits of the Scenic Byway designation are:

      Unique signs, markers, brochures and ongoing promotional efforts enhance community recognition and can transform a local roadway into one of the most scenic and interesting routes in the state.

      State scenic byways can potentially be designated a National Scenic Byway or All-American Road.

      Such roadways are marketed to national and international travelers, bringing additional recognition and economic benefits to area communities.

      Both state or nationally designated byways are eligible to compete for federal grant funds.
 
      Byway designation serves to promote and preserve an area’s scenic, historical and recreational treasures for the enjoyment of future generations.

Although the Scenic Byways Program is administered through WisDOT, local groups prepare and submit byway applications on a voluntary basis. This grassroots approach ensures a strong local commitment to the promotion and long-term preservation of a scenic byway.

Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin believes there are many potential Scenic Byways in our beautiful State. We are ready to assist any communities that want to put together a proposal. We also believe there are a number of potential county highways and local roads that could easily qualify for designation as Rustic Roads. The combination of Scenic Byway and Rustic Roads designations provide many benefits to the local tourism economy and quality of life.

Rustic Roads - Wisconsin has 114

Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin strongly supports the WisDOT Rustic Roads program.

Currently there are 114 Rustic Roads across the State with 41 counties having 2 or more Rustic Roads, 16 counties having just 1, and 15 counties sadly having none. The top 5 counties with the most Rustic Roads are: Racine County (7), Polk County (6), Walworth County (5), Burnett County (4), Green County (4) and St Croix County (4).

To qualify for the Rustic Road program, a road:

      should have outstanding natural features along its borders such as rugged terrain, native vegetation, native wildlife, or include open areas with agricultural vistas which singly or in combination uniquely set this road apart from other roads.
   
      should be a lightly traveled local access road, one which serves the adjacent property owners and those wishing to travel by auto, bicycle, or hiking for purposes of recreational enjoyment of its rustic features.
    
      should be one not scheduled nor anticipated for major improvements which would change its rustic characteristics.
  
      should have, preferably, a minimum length of 2 miles and, where feasible, should provide a completed closure or loop, or connect to major highways at both ends of the route.

A Rustic Road may be dirt, gravel or paved road. It may be one-way or two-way. It may also have bicycle or hiking paths adjacent to or incorporated in the roadway area.

The maximum speed limit on a Rustic Road has been established by law at 45 mph. A speed limit as low as 30 mph may be established by the local governing authority.

To obtain Rustic Road designation isn't difficult, but it requires positive efforts by local citizens and their governments. Initiate and circulate petitions among resident property owners along your favorite road to have it designated a Rustic Road. Work with civic, recreational and environmental groups to publicize and encourage the success of the Rustic Roads program.

The application information page includes a letter to prospective applicants explaining the Rustic Roads Program, petition, description and resolution forms to use in working with local government officials, and the state administrative codes governing the program.   More information can be obtained by contacting your town chairman, county highway commissioner, Rustic Roads Board members and by going to the WisDOT contact information page.

Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin believes there are many potential Rustic Roads in our beautiful State. We are ready to assist any communities that want to put together a proposal. We also believe there are a number of potential Federal and State highways that could easily qualify for designation as Scenic Byways. The combination of Scenic Byway and Rustic Roads designations provide many benefits to the local tourism economy and quality of life. 

Adopt a Highway

Wisconsin's litter control program is Adopt a Highway.

Take an electronic tour of the Adopt-A-Highway clean-up program at their website.  Learn how your group can make a difference in keeping Wisconsin beautiful.