Byways 101

Part 2: Intrinsic Qualities & The Byway Story

Cultural Intrinsic Quality

FHWA Interim Policy Definition
Cultural quality is evidence and expressions of the customs or traditions of a distinct group of people. Cultural features including, but not limited to, crafts, music, dance, rituals, festivals, speech, food, special events, vernacular architecture, etc., are currently practiced. The cultural qualities of the corridor could highlight one or more significant communities and/or ethnic traditions. (FHWA Interim Policy, May 18, 1995)

Inventory And Designation Considerations
A significant feature of the National Scenic Byways Program is that it recognizes the importance of cultural activities along a route as well as natural and built landscapes. A byway’s cultural resources can include distinctive communities such as ethnic groups or concentrations of craftspeople and events, traditions, food or music. Because cultural qualities are not necessarily expressed in the landscape, these attributes may present special challenges in byway planning.

Culture encompasses all aspects of a community’s life, and it may be difficult to decide what to include and what not to include when collecting information about a community. Look especially for these aspects:

  • Geography – settlement patterns; climatic influences on building styles; place names, stories and legends
  • Economy – occupations; products; training; yearly cycles; land-use patterns; material culture
  • Community Life – civic and religious buildings; institutions; customs and rituals, especially aspects of immigrant culture
  • Domestic Life – households; housing styles; food; gender and age roles; family traditions
  • Artistic Genres – folklore; music; customs; legends; architecture; dance, drama, games, music, visual and other arts; crafts; dress and costumes

In addition, identify activities or features that illustrate the area’s historic or contemporary culture or suggest how it may develop in the future. A special festival, a distinctive manufacturer of goods, and an unusual farm or village might be significant cultural resources. Stories or physical features that can be found anywhere or those that express common aspects of American culture should not be included in the inventory.

Cultural qualities often overlap with other intrinsic qualities. Cultural interpretation of the present-day continuation of historic rituals might enhance a byway’s historic or archaeological quality. The relationship of people to the natural environment or the ways they recreate both may be aspects of cultural quality. Architecture and land management practices are expressions of culture, and they define some scenic landscapes.

Take A Look!
Examples from America’s Byways® of some of the routes designated for cultural intrinsic qualities include:

  • Alaska’s Marine Highway (Alaska), All-American Road
  • Amish Country Byway (Ohio), National Scenic Byway
  • Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia), All-American Road
  • Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway (Maryland), National Scenic Byway
  • Country Music Highway (Kentucky), National Scenic Byway
  • Creole Nature Trail (Louisiana), All-American Road
  • Historic National Road (Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia), All-American Road
  • Las Vegas Strip (Nevada), All-American Road
  • Native American Scenic Byway (South Dakota), National Scenic Byway
  • Northwest Passage Scenic Byway (Idaho), All-American Road

Visit for details related to these byways.

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