Envisioning a scenic byway

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Volunteers work to submit application for scenic route in/around Lynn area

LYNN — A group of volunteers who recently stopped a road expansion project between Columbus and Tryon are now working to get the route between the two communities designated by the state as a scenic byway.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners directed its appearance commission earlier this summer to work with a group of residents from the ad hoc group Save Hwy 108 & Lynn to create a scenic byway along Highway 108 between Columbus and Tryon.

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Plans to submit an application for the first phase of a scenic byway, which includes Highway 108 from Skyuka Road to Howard Gap Road, were recently unveiled, with the proposed byway going around Warrior Drive, back to U.S. 176, then turning on Erskine Road and back on U.S. 176 to Skyuka Road.

The proposed scenic byway would include the historic Pacolet Bridge and Mimosa Inn; the historic Sidney Lanier house; historic landmarks along Howard Gap Road; historic homes along Warrior Drive; and the historic Erskine Pond and bridge.

Dorothy Easley, who has done much of the research for the project, said elements of a scenic byway include historic, such as old homes and landmarks; natural features, such as rivers, waterfalls and topography; and natural beauty.

“The business mall sections are excluded from this scenic byway application because those sections, while attractive, do not specifically meet the elements of the scenic byway,” Easley said.

Easley said because the county regulates businesses, the group did not want the designation to place burdens on already designated commercial sections.

“Therefore, we focused on the areas without the already designated business mall sections of the proposed scenic byway route, to ensure the greatest number of elements and greatest chance of success for this application and to return to a later application if this one succeeds,” Easley said.

The process has included developing the proposed byway. That route was posted on Save Hwy 108 & Lynn’s Facebook page for community feedback.

“The residents of Polk County, which is rich in cultural expressions, have overwhelmingly expressed to the appearance commission the importance of maintaining our rural appearance as part of the natural beauty of our county,” said Polk County Appearance Commission Chair Joe Cooper. “Protecting Highway 108 from expansion and development is an important step forward into our inviting future. The scenic byway is a positive step in that direction.”

Easley said the next step is to complete the study list, which is the first part of the application, which is currently in process.

The project arises from a controversy that occurred earlier this year, after the North Carolina Department of Transportation announced its plans to widen Highway 108 between St. Luke’s Hospital and U.S. 176 in Tryon with turn lanes in April. Many residents heavily opposed the plans, with The Save Hwy 108 & Lynn group forming immediately, which held a rally to protest the proposal.

After many meetings, Columbus, Polk County and Tryon leaders signed a “No Build” letter in opposition to the DOT’s plan. The termination of the project is currently awaiting state approval.