Michigan Road is one step closer to earning designation as a historic Indiana byway.
The official nomination to designate the 270 miles of Michigan Road was officially sent to the Indiana Department of Transportation on Tuesday, Dec. 21.
“There’s a feeling of accomplishment, but not at the point where it’s officially a byway,” said Plymouth resident Kurt West Garner, who co-organized the effort with Indianapolis’ Jim Grey. “There was a lot of work that went into the document.
“The document itself is almost 100 pages. I’ve communicated to the committee on several occasions that I’m really humbled by all the support we received across the state.”
The idea of seeking the designation originated in August 2008.
Since that time, the project co-chairmen have spent time meeting with different people along the route of travel.
Garner said the state byway nomination draft was submitted to INDOT in September. At that time, they began scheduling presentations to INDOT district offices and metropolitan planning organizations, where the byway passes through.
Taking recommendations from those meetings, they updated the draft nomination in order to submit the final copy.
Along with the official nomination, a number of letters of support were turned in.
“We received nearly 80 letters of support and votes of endorsement from boards and individuals along the route,” Garner wrote in an e-mail. “We’re excited for all our communities as we move this process forward and await word from INDOT.”
Once it hears back from INDOT, the committee will schedule a presentation to the state byway committee, which will likely occur in February.
The state committee will make a decision on the nomination and pass it along to Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, Garner said, for the final decision.
“If approved by the state, the Historic Michigan Road Byway will tap into the growing heritage tourism industry, which could prove a valuable development tool for local communities’ economies,” Garner said. “The road would become the first state byway to traverse the state in a north-south direction, tying the state together for tourism initiatives.”
Culturally, Garner said he believes it is important for Hoosiers to understand their roots and celebrate where they came from. He also feels it is important to teach youth the historical aspects tied to the road.
If approved, the committee anticipates the byway to appear on state maps. It also expects to eventually have directional signs and marketing materials.
In addition, the committee will continue to work on becoming a 501-C-3 group, to help solidify itself.
Kado Downs and Kathy Dingo served as committee members for the Michigan Road Historic Byway committee and represented Cass County.
Dingo was pleased to hear the most recent news on the final draft.
“I thought it was an amazing job by these gentleman,” she said. “They put in a lot of hours and dedication, and love of history to pursue it in the fashion they did.”
She was impressed by the speed of the project, since there are usually many steps to complete when it comes to state-related projects.
Dingo believes the designation for the historic byway is important.
“I truly believe those are the things that will keep the small towns and communities like Logansport thriving, and will keep visitors coming to the community,” she said. “That is why Logansport is what we are — because of that road.”
According to the release, Michigan Road was funded by the State Legislature in 1826 and surveyed in 1829. Construction followed in 1830 and by 1836, the road was almost complete across the state.
“The primary purpose of the road was to spur development of the northern part of the fledgling state, as well as create access to shipping ports on the Ohio River and Lake Michigan,” Garner said in the release.
The road, he added, generally follows the route of U.S. 421 to Ind. 29. From there, it becomes Ind. 25 to Rochester, where it follows Old U.S. 31 to South Bend before running along U.S. 20 to Michigan City.
Michigan Roadtravels through 15 counties including Fulton, Cass and Carroll.
Garner extends his appreciation to those in Cass and Carroll counties.
“We probably received the most support in those two counties,” he said.
He also thanked Juanita Hunter, of Cass County, stating she is the only authority of the road’s history, that he knows of.
The level of confidence with obtaining the designation remains high.
“With the support we receive, I’m fairly confident we are going to have a Historic Michigan Road Byway by 2011,” Garner said.