Polk seeking scenic byway status for Highway 108

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 8, 2018

LYNN — What started as a suggestion from a Columbus resident has led Polk County leaders to begin researching how to get Highway 108 between Columbus and Tryon designated as a North Carolina Scenic Byway.

Polk County commissioners met Monday and signed a “No Build Alternative” letter to the North Carolina Department of Transportation for Highway 108 between St. Luke’s Hospital and U.S. 176 in Tryon. The letter should stop a project to widen the highway to three lanes, leaders said.

Commissioners also came a consensus to have the Polk County Appearance Commission research getting the 3-mile stretch designated as a scenic byway. Melissa LeRoy said, as many remember, Save Hwy 108 team member Eve Ray first presented the idea to have the highway labeled as such.

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LeRoy also said Save Hwy 108 team members Olivia Whiteside, Dorothy Easley, Tom Brylowe and herself would volunteer to help the appearance commission with the designation.

“Your scenic byway idea demonstrates the foresight of this commission,” LeRoy said. “North Carolina Byways give visitors and residents a chance to experience some of North Carolina’s rich history, unique geography and diverse culture while viewing some of the most breathtaking scenery from the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the fertile plains of the Piedmont, to the crystal blue coastline.

“This Highway 108 area for a scenic byway is also perfect. The byways are intended as an option to the faster-paced traffic and commercial areas found along our major highways and commercial areas found along our major highways and interstates.”

LeRoy said this is exactly what the team desires to do with Highway 108-Lynn; to continue to lure travelers and tourists down the scenic byway into downtown Tryon shops and restaurants.

In order to get a scenic byway designation, a North Carolina based nonprofit organization or a local government must submit an in-depth application, which has to include a thorough evaluation of scenic and intrinsic qualities, copies of zoning ordinances and proof of public and local government support. Once the application is submitted and public comments received, the scenic byway program staff will review the application and prepare a report for the state board of transportation.

To qualify for a scenic byway, the route must be a minimum of one consecutive mile, have legal public access and contain qualities within the corridor, which are not jeopardized by development distractions, according to the NCDOT.

LeRoy told commissioners that Highway 108 through Lynn meets the criteria.

She said there are 3 miles, with adequate land area to safely enjoy the scenery and strong local support.

LeRoy said there is significant natural and aesthetic features along and visible from the route, “including our agricultural lands, old growth forests, historic homes, small businesses and entrepreneurs, an old fashioned vegetable stand where they harvest and sell their own honey, and 100-year old homes.”

LeRoy also mentioned the historic properties along the route.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he was the one to suggest the county research the scenic byway designation, but said it is a rather complex process.

He said he thinks the appearance commission is the right place to start with it, and is hopeful some of the Save Hwy 108 and Lynn residents would volunteer to help.

“I think it’s great,” Gasperson said. “I hope it works.”