This presentation is part of the Are We There Yet: Preservation of Roadside Architecture and Attractions, April 10-12, 2018, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Presenters standing at the podium

Amy Webb and Grant Stevens

Amy Webb: Grant and I are both from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For those of you who don’t know, the National Trust is a national non-profit dedicated to historic preservation. Essentially, we’re about saving places that matter. We do that in a couple of different ways. We work to take direct action at sites. And we also work to inspire broad public support for different efforts. And we have a number of different ways that we can communicate about different preservation topics. If you were watching the DooWop presentation you saw the copy of Preservation magazine. That’s actually the National Trust’s publication that comes out several times a year.

We also have a website, which is, which has lots of different stories about preservation issues that are happening. This morning I was thinking, we’ve got to get some stories up there about Neon and about the Phillip 66 Stations. I think that some of those stories would be really wonderful ones to share. The National Trust also has a grant program. We have usually smaller grants. They’re usually the seed money or different kinds of planning grants that we can do. Just recently we had a new program, this year, which is our African American Culture Heritage Action Fund. That is … Also has grants available. That’s one of our newest programs.

But the National Trust is actually doing things a bit differently than we have in the past. Over the past ten years we have shifted from an organization that provides a little bit of preservation support to a lot of different preservation partners to an organization that is working to provide a deeper level of team support to specific, targeted, significant, and yet endangered places. Route 66 is one of those places. Another thing that is different today is that we’re also looking at ways to find … to really engage a younger generation in preservation issues. I think that if we don’t do that, all of the good work which has happened to date, we risk losing that in the future.

We’ve heard a lot today about why Route 66 is significant, some of the great successes, some of the preservation challenges, the neon signs, the gas stations, the bridges, the motels. And it’s really sad to see some of the places that people have captured in photos but now no longer exist to see in person. I think that those authentic elements of Route 66, once you lose them, you’re never going to get them back.

Michael Wallace mentioned that this morning, one of the current threats with Route 66 is that there is a critical National Park Service program. Kaisa Barthuli runs that. It’s the Corridor Preservation Program. That program is set to expire next year at the end of the 20 years of doing really wonderful things for Route 66. When the National Trust got engaged, we were trying to think about, how can we actually help to support local efforts to look at what’s next and what’s in the future for Route 66?

Route 66

It was my great privilege to be part of the Road Ahead Steering Committee that came out of the Anaheim summit that some of you may have been at, and had a steering committee that met in Albuquerque. And in that group, that resulted in the creation of a new non-profit to serve as a unified voice for Route 66. That’s the Road Ahead Partnership. And there was also a lot of discussion about what would be a good public arm to compliment this private piece as well. And after a lot of careful thought, and discussion about all the different options, the group unanimously decided that the best option would be to create or designate a National Historic Trail.

Now how many of you know what a National Historic Trail is? Okay, a lot of you. That’s good. Because one of the things that we have found is, I think probably everyone knows what a National Park is, but National Historic Trails are perhaps less known. Again, a National Historic Trail is a nationally significant land or water travel route. Currently there are 19 National Historic Trails in the country, many of which you’ve heard of. The Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, the Lewis and Clark Trail. Every single one of the eight Route 66 states already has at least one National Historic Trail. And there is one that has five. This is something that is already exists in many of the Route 66 states.

This year, 2018, is actually the 50th anniversary of National Historic Trails. It’s the anniversary of the National Trail System Act, which was created in 1968. What was it that actually convinced people that a National Historic Trail would be the way to go? First, it was a way to become part of an established program. It would provide a permanent federal designation for Route 66. That was one of the things about the Corridor Preservation Program which had to be renewed every ten years, which was a challenge. It also … Route 66 is already eligible to be a National Historic Trail. There was a study that was done back in 1995 that determined that it met all those criteria.

If you are successful in becoming a National Historic Trail, that actually gives you support from federal agency staff, often the National Park Service, not always. In this case, that would be a very appropriate group to work with. It also provides access to cooperative agreements. Those are similar to grants. Not exactly a grant. The main difference is you work in collaboration with the federal agency as opposed to having just someone give you money up front as a grant. But it also would not have any impact on private property rights, and would not create any new burdens for local and state government.

But it’s not easy to become a National Historic Trail. It literally takes an act of congress. The good news is, there are efforts under way to create a National Historic Trail for Route 66. HR801 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Darren LaHood in February of 2017. The Road Ahead Partnership has been working very hard to help to support this. They’ve had ambassadors in all eight states who have secured letters of support from the state associations. There also are 21 co-sponsors. This actually is a list of who they all are. One of the things that’s really nice about this effort is that it’s very much a bipartisan support. You can see the list of Republicans, the list of Democrats. If you go through you’ll find at least one congressman or congresswoman from every single Route 66 state. Again, I think a very good base of support. The other good news is that in January of 2010 this actually passed the House Resources committee by unanimous consent. Again, there are still hurdles to come. It actually has to be approved by congress, which means going through the House and then being approved by the Senate, and ultimately being signed by the President. Those are definitely challenging pieces.

The National Trust has been providing support to the Road Ahead partnership with government relations. And we’ve had kind of a two part way that we’re doing things. I’m going to be talking about some of our grass tops pieces. Grant will talk about the grass roots level as well, which I think is really exciting stuff.

We have government relations staff who have been helping in D.C. to go out and to have meetings, and to help explain what a National Historic Trail is, why it would actually make sense. This is an area where the Trust has a lot of experience. Our government relations staff has been helpful with projects such as the designation for the Manhattan Project Historic Sites National Historical Park, and the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. In this case, we really felt that it was going to be critical to not just do a grass tops approach, but to really think about ways to reach out at the grass roots level.

We have a fairly ambitious plan that has been emerging. We’re able to share some of the details with you. And then some we’ll have hopefully soon as well. I think Grant, you’ll take this over and talk about what we’re going to do with this grass roots campaign.

Grant Stevens: Like Amy was saying, there’s a grass tops piece and then there’s the grass roots piece. I’m going to talk through a little bit more of that grass roots piece. This July, the Trust is going to be doing a month long road trip along 66 going the full length from Chicago to L.A. to gather grass roots support for the National Historic Trail designation. We’re still working through a lot of the details on that and we can’t share too many specifics today, but we’re working with a couple different companies and our hope is to kind of do this as a deep dive on all things Route 66. The places, the people, the landscape. All those things that make it this incredible part of the American landscape.

Everything from the vehicles that we’re going to be driving, to the social media, to the website … It’s all going to be branded as Preserve 66. And it will have a call to action that will direct people to a website where they can sign a petition supporting the National Historic Trail designation. The Trust has done a lot of these online, targeted petitions to elected officials before. We’ll be able to say, oh we’ve had 500 people from Darren LaHood’s district and we’ve had 400 from Representative so and so and whatnot, and be able to go district by district and state by state in there as well.

That website will also have a lot of the information about what a National Historic Trail is. Amy had touched on a lot of that. There’s also more of that in the paper component that we did beforehand. And then also, we’re going to use the website as a chance for people to follow along on the road trip as well. Our goals here is to tell the full story of Route 66, and then also to galvanize grass roots support.

I’m going to talk through a couple of the main pieces here. The summer road trip chain will be a mix of National Trust staff. There will be a couple folks from my team. We’ll have volunteers as well, which we’ll talk about a little bit more in just a minute. We’re going to have a photographer. We’re also working with a major media partner to kind of help us with coverage there as well. So again, we’re in the contract space so we can’t say specifically who we’re working with, but we’re excited about that.

The goal with working with some version of a national media partner there is that we think, I think broadly people are very aware of Route 66. But they’re going to be a lot less aware of the Corridor Preservation Program, and that it’s expiring, and that there’s this additional tool and this additional legislation out there with the National Historic Trail.

Like I mentioned, we’re going from Chicago to L.A.. We’re thinking of it as a branded experience. We’re in the process right now of mapping out the itinerary of all these places that we would like to stop along 66. We’ve been really trying to think of those in what can be best described as kind of two categories. The first one is going to be kind of those iconic roadside attractions. The ones that are in all of our photos today. The Blue Swallow, the Cadillac Ranch, all of those very traditional Route 66 attractions. That’s going to include a whole wide range of things. That’s motels. That’s signs. That’s roadside attractions. That’s units of the National Park’s service. There’s unlimited content opportunities there I think.

The other way that we’ve been trying to think about these places along Route 66 is places that might not be a traditional roadside attraction, but still have incredible history and still have an incredible story to be told there. Some examples of those; Amy and I were out to the Three Filling Station, it’s about an hour outside of Tulsa. There’s this incredible African American story there. There was a site that we learned about just last week down in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was the original recruiting station for Navaho and Hopi code talkers during World War II that’s right there along 66. There’s all these incredible, under represented community stories. Whether that’s African American, or women, or Latino, or Native stories. We really want to make sure that we’re telling a lot of those stories too.

People holding up signs that read "This Place Matters"

This Place Matters campaign

I think that ties in really well with this next slide which is all about people. I loved earlier today when Michael Wallace was saying that people are the most important resource along 66. I think that’s definitely something that we would agree with at the Trust. We’ve had this really long running This Place Matters campaign. Where people take a photo of themselves in front of a place that matters to them in some way. That can be an iconic building, that can be grandma’s house, that can be their college dorm. People have kind of taken that idea all sorts of different ways. But we want to find a way to capitalize on that with the Route 66 project this summer. Our idea is to, at each of our meet ups along the way, at each of these stops along the way we’re going to have participants share a one sentence story about why that location or why a location along Route 66 matters to them. And then have a professional portrait taken as well. We’ve done this in a couple other contexts. People really like that idea. This is an example. I think these are all from a project we were familiar with up in Buffalo, of photographing the entire community there.

Afterwards, people will get their portrait taken, they’ll sign our petition, they’ll pick up some Preserve 66 materials. They’ll have a chance to learn a little bit more about what a National Historic Trail means. Then they’ll get that portrait emailed to them afterwards. It will all be optimized to share on social media, to share by email and what not as well. The idea here is that it will live really well online and it will live really well through social media as well. We’ve done this in a couple different places and it’s proved very popular.

While we can’t recreate the experience of Route 66 and the joy of being out on the road entirely for our online audience, we want to do that as much as we can. We’ve been thinking through different ways to do that. These are a couple of the ones that we’re talking about right now. We’ve been thinking through live dash cams on the road. We’re going to have a couple different vehicles. Ideally we’ll have some sort of RV, trailer and a tail vehicle. I think we really want to explore the idea of just how large Route 66 is. And helping people to understand that.

We want a version of Facebook Live, check ins from stops along the way. Facebook is still kind of our biggest social media outlet for the Trust and for the media partners that we’re going to be working with. We’ll do more with Instagram and Twitter as well. I think Instagram is a social media that does so well visually. You can play around with and have a little bit more fun with there. And then we’ll certainly have some sort of behind the scenes content from all of our traveling staff there as well.

Like I mentioned earlier, we’re doing this month long road trip. We’re going to have a mix of Trust staff. We’re going to have a photographer. We also wanted to do a call for Route 66 volunteers as well. These are people that are going to join us for one week stints along the route. They might do Missouri and Oklahoma section. Or the New Mexico and part of Arizona section. Or Arizona and California for example. The idea here is that they’ll join us for a week. They’ll really help us with the on the ground story telling piece. They’re going to help us with logistics. All sorts of things there. We’re really looking for diverse, dynamic storytellers that will work as brand ambassadors for the Trust and for the National Historic Trail effort there as well.

That isn’t public yet. That call will go out with the next two weeks or so. That will be going out on our social media channel soon. Amy and I are also in the process of doing interviews for Route 66 intern that is going to be based in the Denver field office and working with us on all sorts of Route 66 related things there. National Trust headquarters, which is out in D.C. will have a content and social media internship there as well. We’re trying to pull people in from a lot of different ways here.

I think one of the main points I want to end with here is that it is really important to note about this project that it wouldn’t be possible without an incredible array of partners on this. Amy and I are up here on behalf of the Trust, but there are so many other people that have been working on this for years and for decades before us and have really laid the groundwork on this. We’ve got Kaisa at the Corridor Preservation Program. Bill Thomas and the folks at the Road Ahead Partnership that Amy was talking about earlier and all of his volunteers. We have the National Historic Trail Task Force. We have all of the state wide Route 66 Organizations.

There’s folks from all over the place here. And then we have the National Trust network of traditional preservation partners in there as well. I think one of the things I’m most excited about with the Route 66 project is that it’s kind of opening the Trust up to folks we haven’t worked with before, in some way. There’s a lot of the Route 66 organizations don’t realize they’re doing preservation work. That there are other people that care about saving places and saving other parts of the Route just as much as they do.


National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
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Email: ncptt[at]
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