Area residents share ideas for improving Cliff Drive byway

Three identical public meetings were held last week to discuss the future of the Cliff Drive Scenic ByWay. The Cliff Drive Corridor Management Committee, which is the advisory board for the byway, received a grant to hire a peer adviser to compile a report with the community’s ideas for improving the byway. The report will be available to the public this week, according to the panel members.

Pam Portwood, director of the Wakulla County (Fl.) Tourist Development Council and program coordinator of the Big Bend Scenic Byway in Crawfordville, Fl., was the peer adviser sent by America’s Byways Peer Adviser Network.

During her stay, Portwood conducted the public meetings to inform the community about her purpose and collect ideas for her report.

Originally, the committee requested Portwood’s presence for general advice to increase tourism opportunities for the byway. However, with recent grants awarded to the Kansas City Department of Parks and Recreation for the byway, the committee decided to have Portwood focus on making the most use of the funding.

The report will not contain advice or plans for the byway, but will be the raw data from the meetings. Portwood said she also plans to include suggestions for updating the corridor management plan for strategic management, which has not been edited since 2000.

Portwood said many of the issues outlined in the plan refer to critical infrastructure issues, such as roads and trails, which have been completed. The parks department is currently in phase three of the plan, which involves installing informational kiosks and look-out points, as well as preventing erosion.

During the community meetings, the main concerns involved the safety and cleanliness of the byway. Another community concern was illegal dumping.

“I’ve seen couches and tires along the road,” said Julie Duvall, head of the Jackson Avenue Action Committee. “Once, I saw a rug in a tree. I’d like to see increased security so that doesn’t happen.”

Duvall suggested the park be closed to the public when the sun is down to prevent unlawful dumping. Portwood said community members in other meetings expressed reliance on the byway after dark to avoid Independence Avenue and other neighborhood streets identified as high crime areas.

Parks and Recreation Department representative Jenny Jones Lacey said she wanted to see more tourism on the byway.

“We want signs on the highway, like the other attractions,” Jones Lacey said.

Northeast resident Dr. Elaine Joslyn said promoting the drive should be coordinated with other city events, like the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

“A flood of tourists interested in sports will be here,” she said. “Do they know about this great, free outdoor resource?”

Portwood stressed the city’s Parks and Recreation Department shouldn’t be the sole promoter of the scenic byway and that the Cliff Drive Corridor Management Committee should become more involved in promoting the byway.

Other suggestions included updating the byway’s website, creating sample day trip itineraries, installing mile markers along the road for those who exercise and to identify exact locations to police, and continuing to keep the byway open to vehicle traffic.

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