Americans should be able to enjoy the beauty of their country without being overwhelmed by overhead wires and billboards, Christine Freitag, chairman of Scenic Ohio, said yesterday during a taping of The Editors television program.
"We believe that change is inevitable, but ugliness is not," Ms. Freitag said.
The group has been affiliated the last five years with Scenic America, an organization that advocates state and federal laws to protect natural beauty and community character. For most of its history, Scenic Ohio was known as the Ohio Road Side Council, founded in 1933 by a Cleveland garden club member who wanted the state to pay attention to landscaping when building highways.
Since 1998, 20 areas in Ohio have been designated as scenic byways. "We do have beautiful places in Ohio," Ms. Freitag said.
For instance, nearly 60 miles of road along the Maumee River, from Defiance to Maumee, Perrysburg, and Rossford has been designated the Maumee Valley Scenic Byway, "which means that it gets a lot of national recognition," Ms. Freitag said.
"These are the things that bring tourism into Ohio," she said. "In order to make it visually beautiful, we have to protect all these scenic areas."
She noted that several states have banned new billboards - Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont among them - and have increased tourism. "I think that people like to go someplace where they can enjoy beauty, and I think it's economically possible to do well in a state that's beautiful," she said.
"To many of us, looking at a billboard is a form of visual pollution," Ms. Freitag said. "And we just feel that our right is maybe greater than [billboard companies' rights], because we have the right to see the beauty that's behind that billboard." Ms. Freitag was questioned by Thomas Walton, vice president-editor of The Blade. The Editors will air at 9 tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.