The Jim Hinckley Collection

Monday, November 30, 2009

THE FUTURE OF ROUTE 66

A spirited and potentially divisive debate is building steam among fans of the old double six. On one side of the fence are those who see themselves as preservationists, on the other those who are focused on the future more than the past. Both camps have valid points.
The former in their fervor to preserve the fast fading remnants of the legendary highway occasionally become myopic and forget that there is only one constant in the history of Route 66 and that is change. From its inception this legendary highway has been in a state of flux as evidenced by the various alignments, the towns that withered on the vine after being bypassed, and the tide of urbanization that sweeps once rural landmarks from the landscape.
The latter may be well intentioned and even in some cases visionary. It could be argued that their endeavors to develop solar and biodiesel facilities within site of the Route 66 corridor have an historical precedence in the development of dams on the rivers of the western United States and the subsequent flooding of historical sites.
This view looking east across the Sacramento Valley towards the Hualapai Mountains on the pre 1953 alignment of Route 66 is unchanged from when this was the Main Street of America with but one exception, the industrial complexes at the bottom of the valley along I40. The harsh reality is that this nation is in dire need of a new generation of energy production and the path of Route 66 across the deserts of Arizona and California is through the center of prime locations for these facilities.
In 1947, Jack Rittenhouse noted the Fig Springs station pictured here was abandoned. Thirty years ago the foundational slab was used as level support for a trailer and a small decorative stone wall outlined a garden where the pumps once stood. Today finding the site is difficult as the desert is fast reclaiming all traces.
Route 66 in its entirety will never again be a transportation corridor. That is a fact. The economic viability of property preservation and rennovation will be more of a determining factor in regards to what is preserved for future generations than historical relevance. That too is a fact.
A recent story carried by Route 66 News illuminates these realities. http://rwarn17588.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/a-dream-in-the-desert/
Does Chambless or Amboy or Cool Springs have greater historical relevance than the currently abandoned Truxton Canyon Indian Agency School at Valentine or the Painted Desert Trading Post? If millions were spent to restore the school or trading post what purpose would they then serve? How would their future upkeep be funded?
We have a responsibility to preserve remnants of Route 66 for future generations. However, all preservation be it Route 66 or the redwoods of California is a luxury that only a prosperous, secure nation can afford.
So, we stand at a crossroads. Perhaps our efforts and resources would best be spent to evaluate the economic feasibility and viability of what remains on Route 66, find ways to save these for future generations and then to encourage development of technologies that ensure future generations will also be able to drive a '57 Chevy on legendary Route 66.

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