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Thu, July 09

Council opposes NPS control of Route 66

The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program began as an effort to save aging landmarks and dilapidated structures. The bill is set to expire in 2019 and many lawmakers fear the funding will go away with it.
Photo by Loretta McKenney.

The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program began as an effort to save aging landmarks and dilapidated structures. The bill is set to expire in 2019 and many lawmakers fear the funding will go away with it.

The Williams City Council officially opposed the proposed takeover of Route 66 by the National Park Service (NPS) at a Dec. 14 meeting.

Additionally, the council opposed the possible fee increase at several popular National Parks, including Grand Canyon National Park.

The council passed resolution 1357 opposing a proposed bill that would designate Route 66 as a National Historic Trail under the administration of the National Park Service, although the council has no legal authority to stop the passing of the bill.

“I was appalled to think they want to take over the operation of Route 66 when they don’t have enough money or manpower to take care of what they already have,” said Councilman Don Dent. “I don’t know where that thinking came from.”

Route 66 bill

The proposed legislation provides funding and gives federal support to preserve historic Route 66.

This bill, sponsored by Illinois Rep. Darin LaHood, would amend the National Trails System Act to designate a trail of approximately 2,400 miles extending from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, as the Route 66 National Historic Trail.

The Route 66 National Historic Trail would be administered by the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the National Park Service. The bill calls for the administration to conduct the trail in a manner that respects and maintains the idiosyncratic nature of the Route 66 National Historic Trail.

Council concerns

A primary concern for the Williams City Council was a portion of the bill that states:

“The United States may not acquire for the Route 66 National Historic Trail any land or interest in land outside the exterior boundary of any federally managed area without the consent of the owner of the land or interest in land; or that extends more than an average of one-quarter of a mile on either side of the trail.”

“That’s in the legislation, that they want the authorization to buy land within a quarter mile of Route 66,” said Councilman Frank McNelly.

McNelly said he wasn’t sure if the NPS would use eminent domain to acquire property within that quarter-mile.

“If they felt it was necessary, they would probably go after,” he said.

The council was also concerned with the operation of Route 66 in downtown Williams.

“Route 66 comes right through town, will we have to ask the National Park Service for permission to do something in our town?” McNelly said. “I don’t think we want to go there.”

Williams Police Department Lieutenant Daryl Hixson said the city would have to get permission from the NPS for any road closures on Route 66.

“Think about the parades,” he said.

The council’s resolution includes a request that the House of Representatives and NPS reconsider the proposed legislation, including the language authorizing the United States to acquire for the national trail land within one-quarter mile on either side of Route 66.

The council also requested that the congressional delegation of Sens. John McCain, and Jeff Flake, Reps. Tom O’Halleran and Paul Gosar oppose H.R.

801 because of the potential detrimental impact on property rights and tourism in Williams and the surrounding area.

NPS fee increase

The council also passed Resolution 1356 opposing the plans for the NPS to increase the entrance fee at 17 national parks, including the Grand Canyon, from the current $30 per vehicle to $70 per vehicle during the peak season.

The NPS estimates the pricing proposal will generate an additional $70 million annually to address more than $12 billion in unmet needs at national parks.

However, some believe increasing entry fees will drive away some visitors and encourage people to buy passes where less money goes to the Grand Canyon.

Council discussion

“Arizona is the Grand Canyon State, Williams is the Gateway to the Grand Canyon,” McNelly said, “Their budget is in the tank and they say there are millions and millions of dollars of projects they’re behind on. There needs to be some clarification on what they would do with the money and why they are so far behind.”

The council hopes to use the vote to encourage NPS to reconsider its proposed entrance fee increase for the Grand Canyon and the detrimental economic impact it could have on surrounding communities.

The council acknowledged the need for infrastructure improvement at the park, but is concerned that local businesses such as hotels, restaurants, the parks, railways, retail shops and convenience stores would be impacted if the annual traffic to the Grand Canyon decreased because of the higher entrance fee.

H.R. 801 must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be signed by the president to become law.

The public has until Dec. 22 to comment on the proposed fee increases after a 30-day extension to the public comment deadline.

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