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A federal agency has designated a key tourism corridor in West Volusia as a National Scenic Highway, and local officials say that could generate a boost in tourism for the area.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration notified the River of Lakes Heritage Corridor Feb. 16 of the designation being approved, the corridor’s Cindy Sullivan said in a news release. The announcement said the designation means the River of Lakes Heritage Corridor is now officially a member of the nationwide collection of 184 America’s Byways located in 48 states.

Sullivan said the designation is great news, since it now allows her organization to apply for federal grants, when before it was limited to applying only to the Florida Department of Transportation.

“Now we can apply for and obtain [federal] grants for such things as marketing, upkeep and brochures,” Sullivan told The Beacon in a phone interview. “All of that can bring us more ecotourism to show off the St. Johns River, our bike trails and springs, and our natural beauty.”

The River of Lakes Heritage Byway (ROLHB) is a 156-mile corridor located in Volusia and Seminole counties that was first designated a Florida Scenic Highway in 2009. Today, the byway is part of the collection of 27 State of Florida designated corridors. The Federal Highway Administration’s recent announcement means there are now eight Florida byways that have received the coveted federal designation, Sullivan’s release says.

WATCHING FOR WILDLIFE Ecotourists often encounter gators when they’re boating on or fishing in the waters of West Volusia.

Sixty-three nomination applications from around the country were received by the FHWA in early 2020. Of those applicants, 49 byways received their designation notice.

To assess a byway’s eligibility, the FHWA considered evidence of intrinsic quality(s); demonstrated national/regional significance; overall visitor experience; and demonstrated long-term sustainability.

Designation is recognition that a corridor’s roads not only pass through places, but that they are places that offer exceptional travel experiences, Sullivan said in the news release.

“All newly designated byways will be featured in a commemorative 2021 National Scenic Byways Program Designations Booklet, and will also be added to the America’s Byways website,” wrote Danielle E. Blackshear of the Federal Highway Administration in an email notifying Sullivan of the award.

Georgia Turner, executive director of the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority, agreed that the new designation will be good for the area.

“The designation is huge,” Turner told The Beacon. “We’re excited.”

Turner said a lot of people are looking for this kind of attraction.

PLENTY TO DO OUTDOORS Visitors have a wealth of activities from which to choose when they visit West Volusia, including boating or kayaking, fishing, watching wildlife, or hiking and biking on the many trails.

“All the outdoor things West Volusia offers are the kind of thing people are trying to do. The designation definitely is an honor for West Volusia and the whole county.”

A local celebration of this award will be announced at a later date.

For further information, visit www.RiverofLakesHeritageCorridor.org or contact Cindy Sullivan at Cindy-Sullivan@cfl.rr.com.

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