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Hit the road: preserving historic routes

Bennis, Edward and Davison, Mark (2005) Hit the road: preserving historic routes. In: UNESCO Cultural Landscapes for the 21th Century, International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, 11th-16th April 2005, Newcastle, UK. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

With the passage of time, many roads, routes and trails have developed an historic significance through their connections to culture, trade or design. These routes have received substantial interest in the United States (particularly parkways), yet there are longstanding resource issues challenging the National Park Service who manage many of them. In contrast, the European counterparts have received little recognition-protection only occurs in rare cases. Routes are treated as incidentals; they are seen as amenities where their historic relevance is coincidence rather than recognized as an asset. Many historic routes have been modified or irreversibly damaged due to development pressures, improved safety standards or lack of recognition, particularly in the second half of the 20th century. A different perspective is needed that can identify, protect where appropriate and add to the value of the landscape fabric by conserving these important assets. There is a perpetual threat to historic trails, and these have become increasingly a threatened resource. Without a means to clearly identify and communicate what features are important, we can not take a sound position. With a clear methodology, we can determine where there might be opportunities for compromise; landscape architects, planners and preservationists will find themselves in an advantageous position in the planning and design process. Recent innovations in digital information technology make it possible to wield the same powerful tools as civil engineers, and thus deal with planning and conservation issues more equitably. This has been demonstrated in the Cultural Landscape Inventory (CLI) for Stevens Canyon Highway for the Mount Rainier National Park. The project was conceived with the additional remit of including technology, particular a Geographic Information System (GIS) as a tool to improve the documentation, preservation and management of this nationally significant resource. The paper will present an overview of the methodology for deconstructing the elements of historic routes, followed by reconstructing them and offering appropriate design guidelines as well as discussing the innovative techniques used to support road preservation and management. The Stevens Canyon Highway CLI will support this point. The European example will present aspects of the London to Carlisle route, using John Ogilby’s road map (1675), and later evidence. These will illustrate changes and pressures to historic routes over three centuries, and how these routes could be incorporated into spatial planning strategies.

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