A group led by the Hancock Park District has asked the Ohio Department of Transportation to designate a 52-mile stretch from Glandorf in Putnam County to Mount Blanchard in Hancock County as a scenic byway. If approved, the Old Mill Stream Scenic Byway would become the third scenic byway in northwest Ohio.
"We like to call it a Sunday drive any day," said Paul Staley, section chief of ODOT's scenic byways program. "It's a way to get people off the beaten path to see the great intrinsic qualities of the state."
The proposed route follows some main roads like U.S. 224 west of Findlay and State Rt. 37 south of Findlay, but it also takes motorists on side streets and back roads past the majestic St. John's Catholic Church in Glandorf, the Rose Haven Bed and Breakfast east of Ottawa, Dietsch's Bros. Ice Cream in Findlay, and any number of parks, produce stands, and antique shops along the way.
"The scenic byway is a great opportunity to showcase our local assets and show our hospitality to visitors," said Tim Brugeman, park district director. "It's a no-budget project with big benefits for all our communities and counties for travel, tourism, and economic spinoffs."
Rose Riepenhoff, who runs Rose Haven Bed and Breakfast on old U.S. 224, said she would like to see the road designated a scenic byway. With the Blanchard River running nearby, she already knows what a picturesque spot it is.
"I don't how much it will affect my business, but time will tell," she said.
The park district held public meetings in March to get residents' thoughts on the idea. Once people realized no one wanted to build a new road and there was virtually no cost involved in the project, most were in favor, Mr. Brugeman said.
Several suggestions were incorporated into the final proposal, including changing the route to pass by Ottawa's historic homes and to bypass a narrow country road south of Findlay where two cars could not pass safely.
Both the Hancock and Putnam County commissioners endorsed the plan along with the Ottawa and Findlay-Hancock County chambers of commerce.
Much of the route roughly follows the Blanchard River, in the same way the 60-mile Maumee Valley Scenic Byway follows the Maumee River from Defiance to Rossford. It was designated a scenic byway in 1999.
The only other scenic byway in the area is the Lincoln Highway Historic Byway, or old U.S. 30, which runs 260 miles from Van Wert County east across the state to Columbiana County.
The Old Mill Stream Scenic Byway would connect with the Lincoln Highway at its southern end.
Mr. Staley said he plans to drive the proposed route later this month to make sure it meets six criteria related to scenic, natural, historic, cultural, recreational, and archaeological importance.
The new byway could be on state maps by spring.
In spite of the high price of gasoline, Mr. Staley said Ohio's scenic byways have thrived.
"One of the things we're finding out is a lot of travelers are staying closer to home - taking shorter trips and doing long weekends," he said. "Scenic byways are a very good market for that."
Information about all 18 state-designated scenic byways may be found at www.ohiobyways.com.
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