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Jefferson County rejects plan to designate Route 21 part of Ozark scenic byway

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Ozark Run Scenic Byway
The original proposal for the Ozark Run Scenic Byway would add signs with the byway's name along a route that starts at Interstate 270. It would follow Route 21 to Route 106 and continue west toward Branson.

Jefferson County officials have voted not to designate a portion of Missouri Route 21 as part of the Ozark Run Scenic Byway.

The Jefferson County Council voted 5-2 last week to object to the plan. The proposal would add signs with the byway's name along a route that starts at Interstate 270. It would follow Route 21 to Routes 106, 19 and 160 and continue west toward Branson.

Counties have to approve their participation in the byway. But many residents were concerned that the route would restrict local control of roads and the rights of property owners.

“I can't tell you how many that live along the [Missouri] 21 corridor were adamantly opposed,” said Phil Hendrickson, vice chair of the county council.

Hendrickson said he and many others aren’t opposed to the idea of the byway but worry that the designation could restrict local control over land and roads on and near the route.

“It's absolutely a great idea if we can control it,” Hendrickson said. “With it not being in a government-controlled situation, I'd be 100% for it.”

Opponents of the byway pointed to a Missouri Department of Transportation document that notes a scenic byway could allow the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission to “implement protective measures to preserve and protect the designated road which may include: Acquisition of scenic easements, controlled access and landscaping.”

But other council members and byway proponents argued that the designation doesn’t give the state more power than it already has.

Proponents said the plan would add signs to the roads designating it as a part of the byway. Nothing would happen to the private property owners alongside the route, said Eric Hermanson, scenic byways coordinator for Scenic Missouri, which is proposing the route. He said the designation would be a boon for tourism in the towns across the state.

“Any small increase in tourism, anything that can attract more people to come down and spend money in that area should be a benefit,” Hermanson said. “So you're talking about places like gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, hotels, antique shops, ice cream shops, all these places that are along the route can benefit from having, you know, a handful of extra customers each month.”

Hermanson said he doesn’t expect the county’s rejection of the plan to delay the work on the route. He’s optimistic that at least a 100-mile stretch of the byway is still plausible and that other counties will agree to it before a revised proposal is presented to the state highways commission in December. Hermanson said he hopes MoDOT can order signs by January.

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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