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Group Plugs Cleanup and Country Roads

For the second year in a row, the city of Richmond will be a recipient. This time, the Clean City Commission is tapped for its "local anti-litter practices," says Layton Powell, executive director for Scenic Virginia. Specifically, the city is being recognized for the sheer volume of volunteers — 6,400 — in its "Super City Cleanup" earlier this spring.

"We're talking about picking up trash and alleys, yet it's also about bringing together neighborhoods," Powell says, pointing out the citizen turnout in her own Jackson Ward neighborhood and the continued clean-up efforts since.

The awards ceremony comes at time when Scenic Virginia hopes to spark attention far beyond state lines.

"Virginia has no national scenic byways," Powell says. The nonprofit aims to change this — and soon. As a strong property-rights state, previous efforts to federalize Virginia's roads have failed to garner necessary legislative support to designate roads, however historic, as national byways. Consequently, Virginia has lost out on federal money available through related programs.

In 2002, the group lobbied the General Assembly, successfully getting it to designate some scenic routes as "Virginia byways" — perhaps you've noticed the blue signs with cardinals. It's the precursor to national byway status, Powell notes.

On a national map that includes scenic byways, it appears the Blue Ridge Parkway stops at the North Carolina-Virginia border and picks up again in Maryland. Inclusion, Powell says, would certainly boost tourism and raise awareness about Virginia's important natural resources.

What's more, at least four of its byways would qualify as "All-American" roads, Powell says, because they possess "extra-special qualities" such as historic significance. "No other state has four All-American roads," she says.

Scenic Virginia — with help from the Virginia Department of Transportation, the National Parks Service, the Virginia Tourism Corp. and others — is lobbying state officials to grant national byway status to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive and George Washington Memorial Highway in western Virginia and Colonial Parkway in Williamsburg. — Brandon Walters

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