Frequently Asked Questions
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What is the Florida Scenic Highways Program?
It’s a program designed to enhance travelers’ experience. This, in turn, provides benefits to the community. The designated scenic highways promote a heightened awareness of the state’s exceptional resources and unique history through educational and visual experiences. The program was developed in response to legislation (Section 335.093, Florida Statutes) “to preserve, maintain, protect and enhance Florida’s outstanding cultural, historical, archeological, recreational, natural and scenic resources.” It is voluntary and grass roots based, involving strong local citizen and government support to help meet objectives. The Florida Scenic Highways Program promotes economic development, enhances quality of life, and conserves important resources. The mission is to help Florida communities deliver high-quality experiences to visitors.
What is a Scenic Highway?
A scenic highway is a public road that has been designated through an official government agency declaration to protect and promote its special cultural, historic, archaeological, recreational, natural, and scenic resources. Designation is recognition that roads not only pass through places, but that they are places; places that offer exceptional travel experiences. Byways tell stories to visitors about people and places, and empower local communities to promote, enhance, and protect critical resources. Because they tell stories, Scenic Highways offer distinctive and memorable travel experiences. For any given destination, tourism websites list things to do and places to see, but byways tell the story about how and why the people and places are connected. For example, the A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway beckons travelers to experience the history of early tourism and ambiance of “old Florida,” while the Big Bend Scenic Byway reflects on the convergence of coastline and forest, and how these natural resources influenced the lives of early settlers, and create a natural wonderland today.
What is the difference between a Scenic Highway and a Byway?
The term “scenic highway” is used to describe Florida Scenic Highways Program designations, but it is synonymous with the terms “scenic byway” and “byway” used commonly by programs in other states and the National Scenic Byways Program.
Why benefits to our community would be realized with Florida Scenic Highway designation?
Scenic highway designations yield several broad-based benefits: Resource protection: Resource protection is probably the most recognized benefit of becoming a Florida Scenic Highway. Designation provides the opportunity to preserve, protect, enhance and maintain corridor resources and ensure that these resources remain for future generations to enjoy. Community Recognition: Community recognition relates to the effects that a designation may have on tourism and the promotion of communities and regions. Recognition will come from the inclusion of scenic highways on statewide maps and promotional materials such as brochures and travel guides. The posting of official Florida Scenic Highway logo signage along the designated highways will identify the corridors as “special places” with important resources worth experiencing and studying. Economic Development/Tourism: Perhaps the most tangible benefit from a designation is the opportunity for economic development/tourism. Currently, millions of tourists vacation in Florida each year, many arriving by car. Scenic highways offer these visitors alternative, out-of-the-way routes to travel throughout the state. Florida residents also generate revenues when traveling within the state. Demand for travel industry services such as recreational tours, lodging, restaurants, gas stations and other tourist-related businesses will likely increase, promoting economic growth. Community Vision: Designation also contributes to the development of a community vision. This planning approach known as visioning focuses on the guiding principles and identity of a particular community. A scenic highway designation can complement and support a community vision by instilling a sense of community pride, and in fact, the scenic highway itself may become the central focus for community development. Partnering: The opportunity for collaborating is a key program benefit. Many facets of our society are beginning to realize the tremendous potential of cooperative relationships. Because consensus is necessary to accomplish any large planning task, the concept of partnering to realize specific corridor goals cannot be overstated. Partnering fosters a sense of unity and support for common goals and benefits all parties involved.
Who can apply?
Any citizen, group of citizens or local government can propose a corridor for designation under the Florida Scenic Highways Program. While essentially anyone can participate, the Program does require that all applications be submitted through a Byway Organization, which serves as the applicant.
Is there any money associated with designation as a Florida Scenic Highway?
Currently, there is not. Designation historically helped a scenic byway qualify for funding from the National Scenic Byways Program or the Federal Highway Administration. Having a designation still helps Byway Organizations qualify for grants from government agencies or the private sector. Scenic Highway designation has helped many Byway Organizations connect with their communities to raise support in efforts to preserve and promote regional treasures of each byway area. While the Florida Scenic Highways Program does not supply direct funding for those groups desiring designation, FDOT does provide support for helping Byway Organizations find other funding opportunities through informational trainings and webinars.
Is it true that designation under the Florida Scenic Highways Program takes a lot of work and time? If so, why?
It is true that pursuing a Florida Scenic Highways Program designation requires hard work and the input and commitment of all stakeholders (residents, business owners, local governments, agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations). The designation process usually takes at least two years, and once designated, the byway must be locally managed in perpetuity. The decision to make this commitment should be discussed extensively with all stakeholders responsible for both the designation process and long-term management of the corridor. For details regarding each phase of the designation process, see Becoming a Byway/Program Process.
Can designation as a Florida Scenic Highway preclude widening?
No. Designation as a Florida Scenic Highway does not limit the Department’s ability to complete improvements to a roadway corridor.
Does Florida Scenic Highway designation require the removal of outdoor advertising or off-site signs?
No. Scenic highway designation does not require the removal of existing outdoor advertising or off-site signs. Designation, in accordance with federal regulations, will not permit the issuance of new outdoor advertising permits on designated corridors.
Are roads previously designated as scenic or historic by the Florida Legislature also considered Florida Scenic Highways?
No. Roadways previously designated scenic or historic highways by the Florida Legislature do not automatically qualify for designation as a Florida Scenic Highway. These roadways, like all other proposed roadways, must be determined eligible and designated according to the process and requirements outlined in the Florida Scenic Highways Program Guidance document (July 2016) and Procedure (effective March 23, 2016).
How are officially designated scenic highways identified?
See the official “Florida Scenic Highway” logo on the home page of this web site. A similar logo appears on the Florida Scenic Highway signs placed at the beginning and end of the byway corridor, at major intersections, and at acceptable intervals throughout as determined by the FDOT District Traffic Operations Office.
What elements make a highway “scenic”?
The scenic qualities of a byway corridor are descriptive of natural or manmade features that give remarkable character to the visual landscape. These resources are striking in appearance, and provide a pleasing and memorable experience for viewers. Many natural resources have scenic qualities since they contribute to the enjoyment of the visual environment in the area. Examples may include rolling hills with green meadows, expansive beaches and sand dunes, or lush forests overlooking shimmering lakes and rivers. Manmade features may include many types of vernacular architecture, agricultural features such as barns, silos or mills, and even modern engineering examples such as bridges and skylines.
Can a corridor be designated as a Florida Scenic Highway if it does not have significant scenic qualities?
Yes. There are two types of designation classifications: scenic and heritage. Scenic corridors are those highways that exhibit resources with mostly natural, recreational or scenic qualities. Heritage corridors are those highways that exhibit resources with a majority of historic, archeological or cultural qualities. While a scenic highway can have both qualities, one classification will dominate.
Can county roads become part of the Scenic Highway System?
All paved, public roads are eligible for designation. The road generally should be more than one mile in length and be able to accommodate two-wheel drive vehicles.
What are Loop Roads?
Loop roads depart from the corridor and either form a loop or re-connect with the corridor at a separate junction. Loop roads can enhance a corridor by providing access to additional resources.
Can a portion of an applicant corridor be excluded from the application to become a scenic highway?
The Florida Scenic Highways Program does allow gaps to occur along designated corridors, but it is not encouraged. Considering the program requirement that a majority of the corridor exhibit the resources for designation, these “gapped” areas must be a small portion of the entire length of the corridor.
Can a portion of an applicant corridor be excluded because the local government does not wish to participate?
The Florida Scenic Highways Program allows portions of a corridor to be excluded due to a non-participating local government. Similar to the issue of gaps in a corridor, a majority of the entire length of the corridor must exhibit the resources for designation. Therefore, the non-participating local government being excluded should not encompass a significant portion of the corridor length, nor should its resources be considered part of the corridor.
Is it possible to add length to a corridor after designation?
Yes. A corridor can be lengthened after designation and is currently referred to as a corridor extension. The applicant must form a Byway Organization if not representing the existing corridor’s Byway Organization and must follow the FSHP’s designation process for the new segment of roadway (as if seeking a new byway). For corridor extensions, the applicant must also provide strong evidence of support for the extension from the existing corridor’s Byway Organization and stakeholders in the surrounding community.
How is a Byway Organization structured if the corridor traverses multiple jurisdictions?
Many Byway Organizations have multi-jurisdictional corridors and all have structured themselves in a manner that best suits their group or situation. The FSHP does not require that a multi-jurisdictional Byway Organization form in any certain way. Rather, each Byway Organization should determine how their organization should be structured based on the needs of its volunteers, stakeholders and municipalities.
Should a Byway Organization seek status as a non-profit organization?
Creating a management organization which operates as a not-for-profit entity can be greatly beneficial for the corridor in some instances. For example, funding and grant opportunities may be better suited for a non-profit organization, whereby funding sometimes cannot be given to individuals or a citizen group. However, many Byway Organizations currently operate without non-profit status. It depends on the needs of the organization and their stakeholders and can usually be identified through the visioning process and organizational goals. For information regarding status as a not-for-profit entity, consult an attorney or legal counsel.