On February 20th, I left the Sooner State and headed west to Albuquerque for the annual Board of Directors Meeting for the Route 66: Road Ahead Partnership. If you’re unfamiliar with this national group, here is a summary:
The Road Ahead Partnership is a collaboration of representatives from state-level Route 66 Associations, state Directors of Tourism from across the route, representatives from state and private historic preservation agencies/organizations, as well as individual business and attraction owners across Route 66. The organization has also established an International Route 66 Advisory Group and a Tribal Advisory Group.
Our group gathered at the El Vado Motel, a beautifully restored motel in Albuquerque. The site was brought back from the brink of collapse and turned into a remarkable complex consisting of lodging, food & drink options, and an event center. It’s a terrific blend of 20th Century style and 21st Century amenities. As such, it was perfect for our needs.
Led by chairman William Thomas (Atlanta, IL), our team discussed all manner of projects relating to the preservation and promotion of the Mother Road. All eight state associations were engaged in these discussions, as was the National Park Service and a few other interested parties. A full accounting of the meeting will be made available soon, but for now I wanted to share a few highlights:
- National Route 66 Legislation
- Although legislation to designate Route 66 as a National Historic Trail did not pass in 2018, the wheels are already turning to get this re-introduced in Congress this year. Optimism is high that we will have this in place in time for the sunset of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.
- A bill advancing the creation of a national Route 66 Centennial Commission has already been created and passed by the House of Representatives (HR-66). All eight states were urged to speak with their individual state governments to create state-wide commissions in preparation. Illinois and Missouri have already accomplished this.
- Mobile App Progress
- A mobile travel app for smartphones is nearly complete. This should enter beta testing this summer. The goal is to provide a complimentary service for travelers to help them navigate Route 66 on-the-go. In addition to turn-by-turn directions, the Partnership is working on including itineraries specific to Native American culture along the Route 66 Corridor as well as a narrative tied to the Green Book.
- Vintage Motel Task Force
- A report from Debbie Pogue of the Sunset Motel in Moriarty, NM on the creation of a network of vintage Route 66 Motels along Route 66 to help enhance the experience for roadies and non-66 travelers alike. More to come on this but it’s really exciting!
While we were in Albuquerque, we were also treated to a bus tour of vintage motel properties courtesy of Ed Boles (Historic Preservation Architect) and Kaisa Barthuli (National Park Service). Ed pointed out multiple historic properties along Central Ave along with their current status – like many other cities, Albuquerque has lost a lot of architectural treasures over the last few decades. However, other properties have been given new life. We stopped at the Sundowner and visited with its owner about the work done to repurpose this vintage motel into a mixed-income housing development.
All in all, it was a very productive two days in the Land of Enchantment. Look for more details when the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership sends out a news released about the meeting, which will be posted at their website here.