MIDWAY — A citizens group is exploring the possibility of nominating Old Frankfort Pike as a National Scenic Byway.
The designation would help tell the road's history and promote tourism in the area. It would also direct more out-of-town visitors to the two-lane road, which not everyone thinks is a good idea.
A nonprofit group called the Lexington-Frankfort Scenic Corridor Inc. has held a couple of public meetings at Midway College to discuss the Scenic Byway program and what it might mean for the road, known formally as Ky. 1681.
If the road became a National Scenic Byway, it would, for example, be eligible for grants to erect interpretative signs or to repair dry stone fences, said Chris Amos, a consultant working with the Scenic Corridor group.
Money might also become available to get more information out about the road through a website or social-media applications. That information could direct people to other attractions in the area, such as horse farm tours, the Kentucky Horse Park and "other things to do in the region," Amos said.
The scenic portion of the road stretches 17 miles from a roundabout at Alexandria Drive on Lexington's western outskirts through Woodford County to U.S. 60 in Franklin County. The road goes through the heart of Central Kentucky's horse-farm country.
It is not a foregone conclusion that the corridor group will seek the designation, said Amos, a former Shelbyville architect who now lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.
She acknowledged there has been discussion that bringing more attention and more traffic to Old Frankfort Pike might not be a good idea, given that it is a narrow road with no shoulders and lots of humps and hills to interfere with a driver's line of sight.
"Farmers and people who have lived on the pike for decades, they see people flying down the road and they see commuters fighting to get into town," Amos said. "We have had objections because if it becomes a National Scenic Byway, we're going to be inviting more people on the road."
Don Ball Sr., a member of the Scenic Corridor group who has lived on the Old Frankfort Pike since 1965, discounts such concerns.
"We feel like the safety things we are trying to do will outweigh anything that will be caused by additional traffic," Ball said.
For example, Ball said the group is interested in lowering the speed limit, which is 55 but has stretches of 35 mph. There is also interest in relocating telephone poles so they aren't so close to the road.
There are other arteries to shuttle motorists between Frankfort and Lexington — U.S. 60, Leestown Road (U.S. 421) and Interstate 64. And Amos said savvy motorists will not want to travel a scenic byway because they know they'll likely encounter others driving at a more leisurely pace.
"There are people who are going to say 'I'm not going to drive that road because I'm not willing to get behind somebody driving 45 mph,'" Amos said.
The Lexington-Frankfort Scenic Corridor, which incorporated in 1988, is primarily a group of residents who live along the road. They were instrumental in seeking the roundabout that opened in 2009 at Old Frankfort Pike and Alexandria Drive. And they monitor development issues that might affect the road.
Even if the group decides to pursue a scenic byway nomination, it may take years to receive the designation. Nominations can't be submitted until the Federal Highway Administration calls for them, and that hasn't happened in two years, Amos said.
"When they put out the call, you basically have your nominations ready for submittal, and it is a very narrow window," Amos said.
The state designated Old Frankfort Pike as a Kentucky Scenic Byway in May 2005. That designation is necessary before a national designation can be sought.
The Scenic Corridor group must also come up with a "management plan" that would outline the goals, strategies and responsibilities for preserving and promoting the byway. A draft management plan will be available for public review in May, Amos said.
There are now 150 National Scenic Byways in 46 states. Kentucky has six. The 71-mile-long Lincoln Heritage Scenic Highway, designated in 2009, winds its way from Hodgenville to New Haven, Bardstown, Springfield, Perryville and Danville. It highlights sites relating to Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War and bourbon history.
The Wilderness Road Heritage Highway takes in Cumberland Gap National Historic Site, Renfro Valley and Berea. And the Country Music Highway in Eastern Kentucky takes in various sites about coal mining, pioneer settlement and country music singers such as Loretta Lynn.
There is also a scenic byway around the Red River Gorge area.
The state's other two scenic byways are in Western Kentucky. One is a multi-state road along the Mississippi River, and the other is the Woodlands Trace that straddles Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.
To learn more about the effort to have Old Frankfort Pike become a National Scenic Byway, go to oldfrankfortpike.org.