Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway
January 24, 2007
County plans for scenic byway
By EMILY MASTERS
Union County's road map could get an addition if a designed byway is approved by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).
The Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway was submitted to ODOT late last year by the Union County Convention and Visitors Bureau and is up for approval this year, according to Steve Stolte, Union County Engineer.
Stolte came up with the idea for a byway in 1998 as a way to promote travel and tourism in the county, but the plan was put on hold, Stolte said, due to the Big Darby Refuge issue.
"We don't have an Old Man's Cave or a Hocking Hills, but we do have the Big Darby Creek which is recognized as one of the last great places on earth by The Nature Conservancy," Stolte said.
According to Stolte, the byway would allow travelers an opportunity to get out of their vehicles and view the Big Darby Creek, which runs parallel to the byway.
"The byway is intended for passive tourism, it's meant for people who aren't in such a hurry to get from point A to point B," Stolte said.
The byway through Union County is an alternative to U.S. 33 on existing roads. Drivers traveling from Franklin County to Logan County could pick up the byway at U.S. 33 and Route 161. The byway route includes: Route 161, Middleburg-Plain City Road, Inskeep Cratty Road, West Darby Road, Stokes Road, and Route 739.
According to Christy Clark, Union County Public Relations and Tourism Director, there are several byway spurs along the route that include historic sites.
"A byway is neat, because it tells a story, and in this case, it's the story of Union County," said Clark.
Four of the historic stops are covered bridges in the county. Others according to Clark, include the first Union County Courthouse, two nature preserves, the Plain City Hardware Store, some churches, parks, century farms, and cemeteries.
Stolte says there are no other byways in the county. One of the closest, he says, is along State Route 315, in Columbus, which follows the Olentangy River where old Indian trails remain. There are a total of 23 scenic byways in the state, according to Clark.
Clark says that if the byway is approved, there will likely be an opportunity for the county to receive some federal dollars which could be used to purchase signs along the byway. According to Stolte, no road improvements are necessary for the byway to become a reality.
"There may be places we'll want to create pull-offs, for better viewing, but that's about it," he said.
A committee made up of residents living near or along the byway has met several times, said Stolte, and they have been supportive of the project. Three public meetings were also held in Allen Township, Milford Center, and Plain City to inform community members of plans.
The Union County Convention and Visitors Bureau hopes to get approval from ODOT in March. Clark said, "If we get the approval, we plan to hold a lunch-time celebration and ribbon cutting, likely at one of the covered bridge sites."
The ceremony is tentatively scheduled for June 21.
Proposed Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway (Map from Union County Engineer WWW site)
An article by the Union County Engineer on the byway is available at: http://www.co.union.oh.us/Engineer/Newsletter/December2006.color.pdf
Union County Engineer Field Notes
December 2006, Page 3
Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway . . .
The planning committee for the proposed Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway held three public meetings in November. The meetings were held in Milford Center, Allen Center and Plain City. Public meetings are required by ODOT who will ultimately decide if the proposed byway meets the criteria for designation as an Ohio Scenic Byway. Once the designation has been granted the scenic byway will be indicated on the state highway map.
The Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway runs parallel to the Big Darby Creek and connects with USR 33 at SR 287 in Allen Township and SR 161 in Jerome Township. The byway runs through the villages of Milford Center, Unionville Center and Plain City, and through Union, Champaign, Madison and Franklin Counties. Letters of support have been received from these village and county officials.
The 27 mile scenic byway has two spurs totaling another 22 miles. Those who wish to get off the interstate will enjoy a 49 mile scenic drive which includes views of the fertile farmland of Darby Plains, vistas of the Big Darby Creek in addition to seeing six covered bridges and three nature preserves.
The Union County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Engineer’s Office and the planning committee have been working for over a year to identify and document all the scenic, historic, cultural, archeological, natural, and recreational elements of the byway corridor. A corridor management plan will propose ways to enhance and protect the features of the scenic byway. Federal and state funding is available for improvements and enhancements for the byway. You can view a map of the proposed Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway on our website: www.co.union.oh.us/Engineer/engineer.html.