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Renfro Valley Bugle
Volume 20 Number 6

March 1967

Billboard Law Editorial By John Lair

Like any other question, that of the beautification of our highways has two sides. Much can be, and will be, said in the near future on each.

In Washington, there seems to be a determined effort to put into effect some form of legislation on the, so-called Ladybird Beautification Plan which some of us think may be carrying the matter beyond reasonable limits. This plan, as I understand it, is especially hard on Natural, Historical, and Scenic attractions, decreeing that in advertising these places to the traveling public, only three signboards may be used in any direction, no board to exceed 150 square feet of surface. In restricted areas along superhighways, where all signboards must be set back 600 feet from the highway, a board 10 by 15 feet could scarcely be seen itself, certainly not the lettering on it. Why the discrimination? Why penalize the natural wonders of a region and allow other commercial properties, such as motels, amusement parks, etc to utilize gigantic sign structures to get their message across to the speeding public? 10 by 15 feet, indeed ! What traveler is going to take time to stop and park his car along the highway, climb a fence and walk across a field to get near enough to read the message?

Sure, a multiplicity of signs along a highway clutter up the landscape and destroy the scenic effect. Regulations to prescribe the type and location of such signs so they might add to, instead of detract from, the general appearance of the area are clearly needed. There can be no logical reason for their elimination beyond the point of usefulness.

Government has long favored the creation of recreational centers and the furtherance of tourist travel. Individual states deriving much of their revenue from the tourist dollar make a continuous pitch for increased travel. A little thought and study must convince anyone that the major tourist lodestones in all parts of the country are the natural attractions and historic points of interest. It is hard to figure out how diminishing their drawing power by eliminating their advertising can help in the overall potential tourist trade.

I, of course, have a selfish interest in all this. I am hard at work readying Great Saltpetre Cave for a Spring or early summer opening. It seems to me that it will be an excellent tourist attraction. To get the most from it will require an expenditure of around two hundred thousand dollars. Two hundred thousand dollars I don't have, but my credit is good. If I go that much in debt I must be rather certain of a chance to make the money back. When completed--if it is-the layout will include around five hundred acres of forest land with ideal camping sites and picnic grounds. There will be a long, narrow lake of forty or fifty acres, with a natural beach. The water to be impounded comes from Crooked Creek, one of the very few trout streams in the State of Kentucky and, I am told, the only one in which trout will propagate naturally. Bridle paths are already present, following old log roads made through the woods when some of the native timber was logged out. The main attraction, of course, is the cave itself and in addition to other features, it boasts a perfect underground auditorium with twelve thousand feet of floor space, ideal for shows of any kind and public gatherings, summer or winter, day or night.

Historically, the surrounding country, as well as the cave itself, is of some importance. The history of gunpowder making in the cave for all our wars up to and including the Civil War is of great interest. Within little more than a mile of the cave runs the old Boone trace later made into one of the first stagecoach roads West of the seacoast colonies. Also nearby ran the Warriors Path, traveled for ages before the first white man came into Kentucky. Within six miles of the cave is one of the oldest taverns still standing, having been built along the old stagecoach road in 1815. Two miles from the cave lies Beartrack Rock, with huge animal tracks impressed into its surface nobody knows how long ago; certainly they were there when the first settlers came into this part of Kentucky, as handed down in tradition from father to son. The, great mystery of Swift's Silvermine touches the area. One of Swift's companions, Montgomery by name, once held the cave and surrounding area under a patent granted by Virginia before Kentucky became a state. What I am getting at is here is a place for a family to spend an enjoyable and inexpensive vacation camping and exploring points of interest not heretofore accessible to the general public.

How is said public to know of this "Natural and Scenic" attraction if we are not allowed to properly advertise it? Not everyone, reads the Renfro Valley Bugle or listens to Renfro Valley radio broadcasts but everybody traveling this way on soon-to-be-completed I-75 can read road signs--but not small signs placed at a distance of six hundred feet from the highway. Being a private enterprise and not part of the state park system, the state of Kentucky will not include it in their brochures and newspaper and magazine advertising. Having in mind making this a recreation center for people unable, to take large families to expensive motels and hotels our expected income will not justify the expensive national advertising. Without local road signs, the average tourist, who would really like to know of such a place will rush by towards the more populated and expensive centers without ever knowing what he is passing up.

This is my story. The stories of many people involved in the operation of "Natural, Historic, and Scenic" attractions will parallel, and in many cases, exceed it. State-owned attractions of this nature will not be so severely handicapped. Private owners who have put time and thought and money into preserving some of the attractions provided by nature will be put out of business; another remarkable example of the little man being taught that he is not supposed to be in competition with Big Business. We are left to wonder why big motel and restaurant chains suffer no such restrictions in their business of feeding and housing the passing tourist while the attractions which put him on the road in the first place are so severely restricted in their efforts to attract his attention:

I don't know what others are doing in an attempt to kill off the passage of the Highways Beautification Act of 1965 about to come back for a new try for passage into law but the National Caves Association headquartered at Marvel Cave Park, Silver Dollar City, Missouri 65616 is desperately trying to call attention to the fact that passage of such a bill, with its unwarranted discrimination against a certain, type of attraction, will be fatal to the attraction itself and detrimental to the interests of the average tourist seeking recreation which he can afford for his whole family. In a modern camping area, with all facilities and many points of interest, a man and his family can stay two weeks for a lodging bill of fourteen dollars. On his way to such a camping set-up, he will be hard put to find accommodations for a single night at that price. The problem could become "Where is there such a place and how do you get there?" The answer is to be found only on highway signboards.

Such signboards will not be there if the proposed bill becomes a law.


Scanning and OCR work done by Andy Niekamp

Article Courtesy of Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

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