During last week’s Route 66 Summit at Litchfield, Ill., a steering committee was formed to establish a national Route 66 alliance. One of the organizers at the meeting is optimistic the group will be operating by 2009.
The organization would be similar to the old U.S. Highway 66 Association, which operated until 1976, and the Lincoln Highway Association, which has a paid executive director, office staff and representation from all the member states.
Talks about a national Route 66 group occurred at the 2007 Route 66 Summit in Clinton, Okla., but nothing much happened afterward. Route 66 author Michael Wallis, who presided over that meeting, acknowledged a mistake was made in not forming a steering committee at the time.
“Everybody’s heart was in the right place and the intentions were good, but we didn’t put it away,” Wallis said ruefully during a telephone interview this week.
“But it’s a brand-new day, and I was incredibly impressed with what happened at the summit in Litchfield. The debate never got heated. It got lively, that’s for sure, and that’s good. I think everyone, particularly the people on the steering committee, all got on the same page.”
A number of the steering committee members will gather before a meeting in November of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program advisory board in St. Louis, as many of them are associated with both. But much of the talk about a national Route 66 alliance will occur electronically. Swa Frantzen, proprietor of Historic66.com, donated the rt66.org domain to be expressly used by the alliance.
“A lot of what we can do can be accomplished by e-mail, phone or conference calls,” said Jim Conkle of the Route 66 Preservation Foundation, who also presided over last week’s summit. “Getting together is nice, but it’s not a necessity.”
The steering panel will have a long to-do list, including writing bylaws, applying for nonprofit status and deciding classes of membership.
“We would like to be up and running by Flagstaff (during the annual Route 66 festival in September) and elect a board of governors,” Conkle said.
The steering committee consists primarily of members of existing Route 66 associations from the eight states. The tentative list is:
- Marty Bilecki, Illinois
- Tommy Pike, Missouri
- Mike Pendleton, Kansas
- Scott Nelson, Kansas
- Someone from the Oklahoma association
- Bob “Crocodile” Lile, Texas
- Vickie Ashcraft, New Mexico
- Mike Ward, Arizona
- Kevin Hansel, California
- Michael Wallis, at-large
- David Rushing, at-large
- Rick Freeland, at-large
- Swa Frantzen, at-large
- Jim Conkle, acting chairman
Requests to several other people involved in Route 66 to serve on the committee have been made, but responses have not yet been made.
Conkle is adamant that the future board of directors has representation from outside of Route 66’s eight states, including from foreign countries.
“We’re looking for input,” he said. “This is not a clique; this is not a secret society. It’s going to be open to everybody who has a stake in 66, whether they’re on the road or off the road.”
As for where the alliance will be based, Wallis is lobbying for Tulsa, where a Route 66 museum will soon be built at Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza.