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Wabash River byway planning travels slowly

– The state bestowed the title scenic byway on River Road in Tippecanoe County four years ago, conjuring up images of a pristine parkway with stunning vistas overlooking Indiana’s most famous waterway.

Perhaps it will be, one day, but nothing significant has happened along River Road since the scenic byway moniker was conferred. That’s because the state’s declaration comes with red tape. Lots of it.

Stan Lambert, executive director of the Wabash River Enhancement Corp., has been dutifully trying to unravel and cut through that tape.

Lambert is waiting on the state to authorize its contract with Storrow & Kinsella, which will create the scenic byway management plan.

“One of the main purposes of the overall scenic byway program is to develop the byway corridor as a destination for local, regional and national visitors to come in and visit the area, to increase tourism in the corridor area,” Lambert said.

“The management plan will help bring together all the different aspects of the byway to improve the visitors’ experience in and along the byway corridor.”

When the plan is completed in the next nine or 12 months, Lambert said it will highlight ways to enhance the 13-mile stretch of road. But changes will come gradually, in phases and over years.

“It could start with things such as signage,” Lambert said of the immediate sights likely to pop up after the plan is created. “That’s something that could happen relatively quickly after we get the management plan done.”

The plan would focus on the scenic and natural qualities of the byway, as well as highlighting the historic significance of the river, Lambert said. It will include signs explaining the history and the river. The plan also is likely to include new and safe places for motorists to pull off the road and take in the scenery.

Some of the minutia of the plan is likely to suggest best practices for managing the road, addressing safety concerns and future development along the road.