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RECREATION PLANNING

Virginia Byways

Photo credit NPS Blue Ridge Parkway
Photo credit NPS Blue Ridge Parkway

Roads are designated as scenic byways because of their unique, intrinsic qualities. … [to] invite the public to visit, experience, and appreciate…
— Alan Yamada

Driving for pleasure has been ranked as one of the top five outdoor recreation activities for the past 40 years. The appeal of scenic roads is the intrinsic quality of Virginia's diverse landscapes and the ease of connecting with nature from the automobile. Traveling scenic byways provides an opportunity to have a relaxing, comfortable outdoor experience that nourishes the need for a connection with nature. In fact, the 2006 Virginia Outdoors Survey (VOS) ranks driving for pleasure as the third most popular outdoor recreation activity.

There are both national and state-sponsored scenic road programs. The Virginia Byways program in Virginia, which is managed by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), recognizes natural, cultural, historical, recreational and archeological amenities of the commonwealth's scenic roads. In addition, the unique and varied culture and character of the geographic regions of the Commonwealth are represented by designated Virginia Byways.

Identifying and promoting scenic roads and byways is recognized by the commonwealth as a great asset. (Click here to order the state Scenic Roads map.) As such, the designation of byways was first proposed in 1966 in Virginia's Common Wealth: A Study of Virginia's Outdoor Recreation Resources and the Virginia Outdoors Plan. In 1966, the General Assembly passed a bill that established the code for the state's byway program. Since that time communities across the state have sought designation for their most precious byways because of the benefits recognition of each road's assets.

Scenic Road designations include American Byways, Virginia Scenic Byways, National Forest Scenic Byways and American Automobile Association recognition.

The process for designation as defined in the 2007 Virginia Outdoors Plan and on the VDOT website involves the municipalities, the citizens and the state who cooperatively determine if a road section of a minimum of 10 miles warrants designation for its aesthetic, cultural, historical, natural or recreational significance. Each Planning district identifies roads for consideration in each Virginia Outdoors Plan; see Region 7 as an example.

For more information on Virginia's Byways program, its benefits and background, click on one of the following links:

Organizations whose mission includes recognition and protection of scenic byways:

For more information, contact us through Lynn Crump, Environmental Programs Planner, lynn.crump@dcr.virginia.gov or (804) 786-5054, or Erica Jeter, Virginia Department of Transportation, Local Assistance, at erica.jeter@VDOT.Virginia.gov .or (804) 786-9125.