(Published March 20, 2007, 4:00 p.m.)
Last spring I read a column by Dennis McCann, a travel writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, describing the only designated scenic road in Wisconsin.
It seemed to me that Walworth County certainly should have a road with that designation.
As I began to research the Scenic Road program, Highway 67 came to mind.
I discovered that the road had to be a state or federal numbered highway of at least 30 miles with either great scenic or historical value. Highway 67 certainly fit the bill.
I wrote a letter to the Walworth County Board explaining the program and asked for their support. I indicated that I felt that I could get volunteers to help with the application process but would need some computer and copying support. I also wanted them to approve the idea.
My letter was referred to the Public Works Committee, and after reading my letter at their May meeting I was invited to discuss the program in greater detail.
On June 19, the committee recommended proceeding with the application process.
I suggested starting at Salt Box Road in the town of Sharon and continuing up to Old World Wisconsin.
At another meeting I happened to mention the possibility to Rep. Steven Nass and Sen. Neil Kedzie. They both were positive about me proceeding with the application.
Because of the Highway 67 road construction in Fontana, driving the route to evaluate it and take pictures was delayed until November. Friends and neighbors Mary Kaye Merwin and Ceil and Joan Pankratz did the first drive with me. They had to use the state form and evaluate the route mile by mile. Mary Kaye also kept track of where I took pictures.
They day before we drove the route I obtained a flashing light for my car from the Highway Department. We would be stopping almost every mile along the way and wanted to alert other drivers. I also was provided with a reflector vest for when I stepped out of the car to take pictures.
We had a delightful morning and I was able to tell my companions much of the history of the buildings and sites along the way. Before I started to complete the forms I talked with Jane Carrola, the coordinator of the statewide program. She indicated that I could not combine both scenic and historic significance. I had to choose one or the other. I decided it would be historic. That meant that I would have to take different pictures.
John Halverson, publisher of The Week, agreed to be the photographer this time. The day we selected turned out to be foggy. The forecast indicated it would clear by 9 a.m. We again started out in Sharon, taking pictures of the Bird House, Gov. Goodland's birthplace, Sharon library, their business district and Pearl and Grace streets. As we headed out of the village we continued to hope that the weatherman was correct.
We took pictures of the former Mansfield School and Cattle Corners before heading into the village of Walworth. After stopping for pictures of the square and the two Church houses we continued to Fontana. There we stopped at the stovewood-constructed home and an early grocery store/post office. The former Bay Hill Post Office and Inspiration Ministries were other stops. The fog was still with us. In fact, it seemed like it was getting thicker.
When we stopped at Yerkes Observatory, John decided he could take an "artsy" picture. The building was swaddled in fog. We stopped at the historic marker at the old Radar Base and then headed into Elkhorn. At that point I decided that it was useless to continue. The fog just got worse.
A week later, John, Mary Kaye and I again headed to Elkhorn to continue filming the route. Our stops here were the Elderkin Octagon House, Webster House, the county government center, the old jail, the first schoolhouse and the historic buildings on the fairgrounds.
Bethel Church, the Appleby Knotter plaque and the Cameron tombstones in Little Prairie were stops before getting to Old World Wisconsin. We were well over the 30-mile mark and it was the end of our route.
Right after the holidays I headed to the Public Works Building to use one of their computers to organize the material and work on completing the state form. Becky Bechtel, administrative assistant, was a big help along with several other women on the staff.
After sending in the pack of the evaluations, pictures and description of the historic buildings and sites, I waited to hear from Madison. Jane Carrola called to let me know she received the information and reviewed it. She indicated she would like pictures of some of the "distractions" along the route. Her definition included junkyards, barns in poor repair, industrial areas and strip malls.
Mary Kaye and I set out again to film several such sights along Highway 67. The Week again agreed to develop the pictures and send to Madison. I also learned that the committee to review and make the designation will not meet until either spring or summer. So we have to be patient.
The author writes the Mystery Place column in the Thursday Week and is author of the Meandering Walworth County guides.