In other locales across the country, a highway gaining All-American Road status isn't just a means to a destination but is a destination itself.
The southern Appalachian Mountains offer the Blue Ridge Parkway and adjoining Skyline Drive; the historic Natchez Trace links Tennessee with Mississippi; and the Trail Ridge Road takes Colorado travelers onto the nation's highest continuous stretch of paved road. Closer to home, Oregon's Historic Columbia River Highway follows a meandering route from the Portland suburbs to The Dalles.
These highways offer leisurely travel with a variety of scenic and historic attractions. They invite visitors to stop, stay awhile, discover local color and history - and spend a buck or two. These roads draw travelers from far and wide, and they provide a source of local pride and economic vitality.
The 87-mile Chinook Scenic Byway - better known locally as State Route 410 over Chinook Pass - isn't in the league of those roads, but boosters want to take it on that route. And their efforts are headed in the right direction.
The road is one of Washington's 28 scenic byways, having gained U.S. Department of Transportation recognition by holding significance in at least one of six areas: archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic. Its uniqueness rates it as one of only two highways in the state to gain All-American Roads status; the other is the International Selkirk Loop north of Spokane.
There's no doubting the scenery; the road slices through a corner of Mount Rainier National Park and over 5,430-foot Chinook Pass - the latter, admittedly, when weather permits. It offers access to prime recreational areas on both sides of the pass, including the Bumping Lake area favored by Yakima's own William O. Douglas east of the pass, and the Crystal Mountain ski resort on the west side. There is also history besides being the hiking grounds of the late Supreme Court justice; as a state route, it started as a wagon road late in 1897, just eight years after Washington became a state.
To tell its story, supporters have obtained a $60,000 grant from the federal highway administration and a matching $20,000 grant from Mount Rainier National Park. Supporters held two meetings this week to share ideas for promoting the byway.
We hope some of those ideas can inform travelers who approach from the west that there is much to see and do east of Mount Rainier, from outdoor activities along the highway to the roadside businesses to the tourist attractions in the Yakima Valley. We'd also like to see that effort work in conjunction with Yakima Valley tourism interests to promote Yakima as the eastern gateway to the Chinook Scenic Byway and Mount Rainier.
For now, the task is updating marketing efforts and, perhaps, reminding residents along the highway and in the Yakima Valley of the terrific amenity we have in our backyard. Promoting the Chinook Scenic Byway is a natural complement to Central Washington's tourist industry; the highway and its attractions have much to share with travelers from across the country and around the world.
• Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.