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Meridian, Kuna want historic byway to lure visitors

Goal is to show motorists the area’s historic, geologic and scenic sites

Kathleen Kreller
The Idaho Statesman

Just a hop, skip and jump from Boise are 40 miles of Idaho road punctuated with historic sites, breathtaking scenery and captivating geology.

Now the public is being asked to weigh in on how the Western Heritage Historic Byway, which runs from Meridian through Kuna to the Swan Falls Dam, should be managed and developed in the future. An open house was held to collect public input Thursday (April 8) at the Kuna Library.

The byway teaches surrounding communities and visitors about local history, said Wendy Kirkpatrick, a byway advisory committee member.

“I think part of why it´s important is so families have a chance to really see what our heritage is,” said Kirkpatrick, who works for the city of Meridian as an associate planner. “There are a lot of things so different from Boise.”

The byway starts at Meridian Road on the south side of the Meridian Road/I-84 interchange, continues south on Highway 69 through Kuna, then heads down Swan Falls Road to the dam.

Along the way, drivers have the opportunity to stop at a number of historic, geologic or scenic sites.

Sites under consideration for new or expanded development include the Silver Trail, Pioneer Cemetery, Kuna Caves, Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, Initial Point, Celebration Park, a new visitor´s center in Kuna and a potential loop through Melba.

Byways are an opportunity for communities to highlight their most outstanding assets while attracting visitors and getting economic benefits from tourism and recreation, Kirkpatrick said. For example, travelers may stop in Kuna for a meal, she said.

“You will have people who are seeing the area and coming through who wouldn´t have been there otherwise,” she said.
The route´s byway designation was born from the efforts of Kuna´s Western Heritage Foundation and Kuna Futures, a nonprofit group organized to plan for the city´s future.

“We thought it might be a great economic benefit for Kuna to have a historic byway,” said Dave Lyon, a member of Western Heritage Foundation and president of Kuna Futures. “We think it is an amenity because it will bring more tourist traffic to the community.”

The goal is to create a good visitor experience, said John Bertram, project manager for the byway management plan.
“What we are trying to create is a good visitor experience. We have the opportunity to protect and enhance about a dozen byway sites,” he said. “We want to protect them for future generations, but we want to make them more usable.”

The National Scenic Byways Program is a voluntary, community-based program administered through the Federal Highway Administration to recognize, protect, and promote America´s most outstanding roads.

Through their state departments of transportation, communities can apply for designation as a State or National Scenic Byway.

In order to receive historic byway status, communities agree to ensure the safety and appearance of the route.

Cities also must preserve or enhance the value of surrounding scenic, historic, cultural and archaeological features.

Idaho has 23 scenic, historic and backcountry byways, totaling 1,678 miles.

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