Dan Marriott on Roads As Destinations, At the California Cultural and Heritage Tourism Symposium

by Joanne Steele on January 28, 2010

Dan Marriott is a historic and scenic road preservation planner from Washington, DC. His funny, passionate presentation was a highlight of the first day of the California Cultural & Heritage Tourism Conference. The following are his thoughts and ideas gleaned from the presentation.

He characterized driving to get away from everyday life as driving the golden roads. Driving to get someplace as quickly as possible, he called, “A MapQuest experience.”

According to our first presenter, Sheila Armstrong, 59% of visitors are currently driving in their own cars. Dan’s important question was, “What is your visitors’ experience as they drive to your destination? How are you managing, marketing and maintaining that experience?”

Does your visitors’ adventure begin with the journey getting to you , or is it a discouraging distraction?

There is lots of focus locally and nationally on designated scenic byways, but our rural areas are packed with stunning drives to small towns that aren’t listed anywhere as “scenic byways”

Dan’s question is, “ When you give directions to your town, are you giving people the ‘golden road’ drive or the MapQuest route.”

“What is the relationship between your destination and the route your recommending? Here,”according to Dan, “is your scenic byway opportunity.”

For driving visitors, their adventure should begin with the journey, and you can show them the way.

Dan’s quick overview of the history of the United States road system

He told us that historically, as the US moved to build a better road system, women took the long view – better roads equaled better education, better social opportunities and better nutrition. Nutrition because fresh food could move further faster. Men liked the idea of getting places faster.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, roads quickly became about travel and tourism, NOT transportation.

He showed how routing of the famed Lincoln Highway system was even about travel and tourism.

Context sensitive solutions – CSS in historic road preservation.

CSS asks that when road improvements are contemplated, it’s important to take into consideration the local community and the context of the community and setting, not just safety.

To illustrate this point he showed a brand new covered bridge on the historic Cumberland road that is a historically correct covered bridge, built to handle the weight of modern emergency vehicles. In Kentucky he showed stone walls built to resemble historic stone walls along roads to maintain the character of the road.

Dan talked about three types of historic roads

Aesthetic routes were consciously designed to enhance the travel experience such as the Columbia Highway along the Columbia River on the border between Oregon and Washington in the US.

Engineered routes are built for efficiency and transportation. They are sometimes beautiful examples of engineering such as the freeway leading from San Francisco, California to the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Cultural routes are old trails or perhaps Indian routes with interesting and complex histories to be figured out, to understand how to preserve and enhance them.  Cabrillo Parkway in northern California is an example.

Most roads throughout rural America fall easily into one of these three categories. Recognizing this can help us value and incorporate our roads into the marketing of our town.

Dan’s Five Principles of Heritage Roads Preservation

Collaborate – work with everyone who has an influence on the road.

Find the fit between the community, the road and tourism.

Make sites and experiences come alive.

Focus on Quality and Authenticity.

Preserve and protect resources.

If Dan Marriott is speaking in your area, make a point to attend.

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