Jumping on the bandwagon

Star Gonzales, executive director of the Grants-Cibola County Chamber of Commerce, told the Gallup (N.M.) Independent that she wants to establish a county-line-to-county-line “gateway” to draw travelers onto old Route 66.

“We want to see it extend from (the Bernalillo) county line to (the McKinley) county line by establishing a gateway at the east end at Laguna and bring them onto 66 so all the communities, from east to west, benefit. We want to get visitors using old Route 66 as opposed to the freeway. It’s a great idea. There’s no actual plan, now, but we’re working with a few (key) people on how to make it happen,” she said.

By the end of 2006, she expects, there will be a comprehensive plan, with the help of other organizations.

“We’ll approach the state and national Route 66 associations for funding,” she said, especially in view of the fact that 2006 is the beginning of the 80th anniversary celebration of what is known across the world as “The Mother Road.”

Gonzales concluded, “We want to take advantage, to some extent, of that even if we’re not ready to implement our ‘Gateway’ concept.”

This is yet another example of cities and regions awakening to the tourism potential of the Mother Road. I suspect Grants’ eyes were opened by the success of the Fire and Ice Bike Rally earlier this year, and the region now is playing catch-up.

I welcome its participation, but it also has to maintain the commitment to 66 with a mix of historic preservation and special incentives (encourage businesses to use vintage-looking neon signs or restore existing ones, for example).

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