The formation of a new, national Route 66 organization was proposed during the Route 66 Summit on Thursday at the National Route 66 Festival in Clinton, Okla.
The organization would be similar to the old U.S. Highway 66 Association, which operated from 1927 to 1976, and the current-day Lincoln Highway Association, which has a paid executive director, office staff and representation from all the member states.
Michael Wallis, author of the best-selling “Route 66: The Mother Road,” advocated an “active, national organization governing the whole road with equal representation from each state on the highway.”
Forming a new national organization has taken on new urgency because the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program sunsets in 2010. Also, the National Historic Route 66 Federation has scaled back its activities, and one of its co-founders is in poor health.
Referring to the late national Route 66 boosters Jack and Gladys Cutberth of Clinton, Wallis said “we owe it to these people, the highway and the people eking out a living. … and we owe it to ourselves … to preserve this road.”
During the discussion, it was suggested that members not only include the road’s beloved mom-and-pop businesses, but also corporations, on a tiered membership-fee system. Some of that money would be funneled to Route 66 associations in the eight states.
Most attendees were strongly in support of a new national 66 group, including Swa Frantzen of Historic66.com. The Belgium resident said the many Europeans who travel the road would find it easier to use one Route 66 association as a clearinghouse for information. “It needs coordination,” he said.
Michael Taylor of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program advocated such a group, and said it would be a natural progression after the corridor program ends. He also noted that federal funding is available for start-up costs for such programs, and cited the Scenic Byways program as an example.
After the general discussion, a smaller group of members of the Route 66 state associations met with Wallis and Pam Lewis, Scenic Byways manager of the University of Oklahoma Outreach, to draft a proposal that will be sent to all the state associations for their consideration. A neutral Web site also will be set up so Route 66 advocates can exchange ideas about the proposal.
After the smaller meeting adjourned, Wallis said he was encouraged by the reaction to the idea for a national Route 66 organization.
“I was approached by people who were very enthusiastic,” he said. “We went a lot further than I anticipated, and I’m an optimistic guy.”