Old Red Trail is pursuing the scenic byway/backway designation from state officialsHebron’s Ken Johnson doesn’t claim to be the best speller around. He does, however, have a good understanding of what attributes are required to have a North Dakota roadway become a state scenic byway/backway.
By: Alan Reed, The Dickinson Press
DICKINSON - Hebron’s Ken Johnson doesn’t claim to be the best speller around. He does, however, have a good understanding of what attributes are required to have a North Dakota roadway become a state scenic byway/backway.
Wednesday evening Johnson reviewed those attributes via pictures taken along the Old Red Trail, otherwise known as old U.S. Highway 10, from Mandan to Dickinson in a slideshow presentation he gave during the Dickinson Joachim Museum Annual Meeting. Johnson chairs the committee that is pursuing the scenic byway/backway designation from the state for about 100 miles of the Old Red Trail that is a mix of paved and gravel roadways.
To describe the attributes required of a scenic byway/backway, Johnson formed the acronym “RANCHS” before later realizing his mistake that he needed the letter “e” to properly spell the word. Regardless, Johnson continues to promote “RANCHS” when speaking about the recreational, archeological, natural, cultural, historical and scenic attributes needed to obtain the special highway status.
“Sometimes it’s not what we see, but what we don’t see, that makes it attractive,” Johnson said of the stretch of roadway he is helping to promote.
He points out that Gen. George Custer followed a great portion of this route during his travels. The abundant wildlife, historical ties to the American West and the numerous cultures that reside in the region, along with lifelong ties to agriculture are all reasons why people should be interested in traveling this route.
The purpose behind pursuing the designation is for the recreational, historical and economic revitalization of the communities along Old Highway 10. These include Mandan, Almont, New Salem, Hebron, the Schnell Recreation Area, Richardton, Taylor, Gladstone and Dickinson.
“Our small towns are just drying up and we’re looking for ways to bring some travelers there,” Johnson said. “We should be able to attract some. But we’re going to have to work very hard on marketing.”
Robin Reynolds moved back to Hebron in 1996 and suggested then that the roadway become a scenic byway/backway. But conversations with the Hebron Economic Development Corporation resulted in determining the application process at the time was too complicated, she said.
Five years later, however, the EDC approached Reynolds about her idea and suddenly found herself president of the group.
Her great-grandfather Albert Bacon also had an interest in roadways when he founded Bacon Signs in Minot in 1904. Reynolds said one of his jobs was to go out and mark the old trails leading to Minot, “painting rocks and posts to mark the Yellow Trail into Minot.”
Over 100 years later, Reynolds now is an important player in trying to get added recognition for the Old Red Trail.
“Six million cars pass by any of the communities every year,” Reynolds said of the numbers along Interstate 94.
She is hoping just a 1,000 vehicles “may be attracted by the romance” associated with the Old Red Trail to get off I-94. The first time she traveled the Old Red Trail, Reynolds was enchanted by the whole experience.
“It’s more like the difference between a shot of tequila and a malted milkshake,” she said of describing travel along the old roadway compared to blazing down the interstate.
The reason for also seeking the “backway” designation along with the scenic byway is because backways are gravel roads, and the portion of the Old Red Trail the committee is proposing for the designation includes about 12 miles of gravel.
While completing the application for the designation, the committee also is working to design a brochure by June 1.
“We have been slowly learning our own history of place,” she said.
For more information about the Old Red Trail Committee and its efforts go to its Web site at www.oldredtrail.org.