October 21, 2014 9:45:06 AM
TUPELO -- Portions of the road connecting New Albany, the birthplace of Mississippi's Nobel Prize-winning author, with Oxford, in which William Faulkner lived most of his life, will soon bear his name.
The Mississippi Transportation Commission gave approval this past week to name portions of Mississippi Highway 30 as the "William Faulkner Scenic Byway."
The state's Scenic Byway program followed Congress' creation of the National Scenic Byways program to recognize certain roads based on archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.
"The initial effort was to get a state Scenic Byway designation," said Sean Johnson, marketing and tourism director for the city of New Albany, who championed the idea. "But of course we'll seek out a federal designation as well."
While New Albany and Oxford are some 35 miles apart, the Faulkner Scenic Byway label applies to a stretch between Highway 30's intersections with Darden Road (County Road 14) in western Union County and Hopewell Road (County Road 229) in northeastern Lafayette County.
"The route is a 15.7-mile long uninterrupted segment of the state-maintained Highway 30 West," according to the Corridor Management Plan. "This East/West two-lane highway stretches through the rolling hills, Tallahatchie marshlands, forests and high ridges that make up the indicative topography of this region of the state."
Indeed, it is the topography of William Faulkner's fiction . peopled with farmers and workers whose families have lived in this same area for generations."
"About 95 percent of it is inside the Holly Springs National Forest, which is one of the scenic byway's intrinsic resources," Johnson said.
Other "intrinsic resources" identified along or near the corridor include the following:
-- Puskus Lake Recreational Area
-- Little Tallahatchie River
-- Greenfield Farm, where William Faulkner raised crops and mules
-- Faulkner's birth site in New Albany
-- Faulkner Gardens and Library at the Union County Heritage Museum
-- Tanglefoot Trail, which traces the route of the railroad built by William Faulkner's great-grandfather
-- Rowan Oak, Faulkner's Oxford home
-- The University of Mississippi
-- Faulkner's statue and the Oxford Square
-- Faulkner's Grave in St. Peter's Cemetery
"The Faulkner Scenic Byway designation is a great tribute to Faulkner," said Mary Allyn Hedges, director of Visit Oxford. "My hope is that this is another reason for visitors to come to our region to learn more about both Oxford and New Albany."
Faulkner, a native of New Albany, bought Rowan Oak in Oxford in 1930 and it became his home until his death in 1962. The University of Mississippi operates Rowan Oak as a historic house museum.
A final decision on the Faulkner Scenic Byway designation belongs to the Legislature, but that approval is expected to be easily forthcoming.
"Once the Legislature approves in the next session, the signs will go up," Johnson said.
Mississippi already has nine state-designated Scenic Byways, a National Scenic Byway (Great River Road) and an All-American Road (the Natchez Trace Parkway). Of those, only the Natchez Trace and Brice's Crossroad Battlefield - Chief Tishomingo Scenic Byway are in Northeast Mississippi.
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