One of the priorities of the most recent Forest County Outdoor Recreation Plan is to apply for a Wisconsin Scenic Byway designation. The Forest County Economic Development Partnership (FCEDP) in cooperation with other stakeholders that include Langlade County Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin Department of Tourism, Northwood’s Niijii Inc., UW Extension, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community and Wisconsin Department of Transportation are working on a plan to accomplish just that.
This Byway can help bring new visitors into the area and make a positive impact for your local municipality. There is no cost to your municipality for the program. Securing a Scenic Byway designation is a two-phase process. First, applicants must conduct a thorough corridor assessment to determine if the proposed byway meets WiDOT guidelines for scenic quality. Second, applicants must develop a Corridor Management Plan that outlines how the Byway will be maintained. Phase one was approved by WiDOT in October, 2013. But phase two cannot be completed without your help. The Byways program offers special designation for segments of highways that possess exceptional scenic, historic, cultural, and recreational attractions to promote/boost a region’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.
Wolf River-Nicolet Scenic Byway program can create an opportunity for grant programs including façade improvement, streetscape, and safe routes to school programs. The various municipalities can easily enjoy broad based benefits, as far as 30 miles away from the route.
Wolf River-Nicolet Scenic Byway Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Does State Scenic-Historic Byway designation impose additional restrictions on private property owners and highway users?
Answer: Other than the additional Federal outdoor advertising restrictions that apply to scenic byways, scenic byway designation does not provide any Federal, State, or local government with any additional authority to pass or enforce laws or regulations that limits private property use or the activities of vehicles. However, because of concerns raised with earlier legislation, Wisconsin’s scenic byway statute specifically states that the designation will not affect property owners, highway users, or the activities of the agency responsible for the highway.
Question: Will Corridor Management Plans restrict land and highway use?
Answer: The Corridor Management Plans required for Federal and State scenic byway designations do not have any legal standing themselves. However, they do provide the public, adjacent property owners, local governments and highway agencies with an opportunity to document exactly what the designation does and does not do prior to deciding whether they support the designation. Without such a document, some individuals or organizations could forever point to the designation as justification for their efforts to impose restrictions or prevent highway improvements.
Question: Will State Scenic Byway designation force WiDOT to change project designs and maintenance practices?
Answer: There are no Federal or State design requirements tied to scenic byway designations. Although a corridor management plan may identify some special design or maintenance requirements tied to a specific route, WiDOT would have to agree to these requirements before it approved the plan.
Question: What is a Corridor Management Plan?
Answer: A Corridor Management Plan (CMP) is a guide for the future promotion, preservation, and enhancement of a Scenic Byway. The plan is a result of local governments, community organizations, and byway residents working together to establish goals and objectives that hope to achieve through designation. These goals may include the promotion of tourism, protection of historic and natural resources, or preservation of scenic views. The CMP is not a document of new laws, regulations, or ordinances, but instead is composed of existing land use plans plus recommendations, by property owners and stakeholders, used to assist in protecting and promoting the byway.
Question: Who will implement and manage the corridor management plan?
Answer: The objectives of the CMP will be carried out by the local governments and the members of the Corridor Management Plan Committee. FCEDP is providing the facilitation services for the formation and execution of the CMP.
Question: What are the community benefits of a Scenic Byway?
Answer: A community’s benefits depend on the objectives established in the Corridor Management Plan. For example, if a local government uses the designation to promote tourism in the area, then residents may see an increase in economic development and a decrease in taxes due to the generation of new tourism revenue. Or, if a community decides to emphasize the protection of scenic and natural areas, land use ordinances could be created to preserve the rural character of a byway and limit development intrusion. Scenic Byway designation is a distinctive tool, in that it can be used to achieve a wide variety of your business’s and community’s goals.
Question: How will the Byway be funded?
Answer: There are several possible funding sources, including Federal and State government programs and private foundations. At the Federal level, National Scenic Byways Grants and Transportation Enhancements can be used to fund improvements to the byway such as information kiosks, marketing brochures, scenic overlooks, streetscaping plans, and safety enhancements. The Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources also offers funding programs that could be used for Byway-related projects.
Question: What will the Byway cost the sponsor and/or local government?
Answer: It depends. The most obvious cost is time, which includes holding public meetings and developing the Corridor Management Plan. As far as money is concerned, the local government may provide a match for a grant to target specific community goals to implement a project once designated. They may also wish to contract out some elements of the designation, implementation, and maintenance processes. The extent of money and time needed is difficult to determine since governments can take a more or less active part in developing, maintaining, and promoting the Byway.
Question: Does designation as a Scenic Byway mean that WiDOT will exercise Eminent Domain?
Answer: NO. Designation as a Scenic Byway in no way facilitates WiDOT’s ability to “take” your property, nor does it increase the likelihood of such an action.
Question: Does designation as a Scenic Byway impact my ability to secure additional curb cuts/access points?
Answer: NO. WiDOT’s driveway permitting process is not altered by the route’s Scenic Byway designation. However, byway designation is based on the route’s intrinsic qualities and the protection of those qualities through local land use plans and zoning.