Published 1961 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
From The Office of UNITED STATES SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD Room 342, Old Senate Office Building, Washington 25, D. C. Volume I--Number 15 BYRD'S EYE VIEW A Public Service column By SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD CONSTRUCTION OF MONONGAHELA SCENIC HIGHLAND ROUTE WOULD AID STATE The proposed scenic highland road through Monongahela National Forest, for which a general reconnaissance survey has recently been completed by the U. S. Forest Service, would be tremendously beneficial to West Virginia, just as the Skyline Drive has proved to be a first-rate economic asset for Virginia. The existence of the Skyline Drive is said to be largely responsible for Virginia's having grossed approximately $645 million in tourist business last year. Tourism grossed approximate1y $290 million for West Virginia in the same period. Unquestionably, a scenic highland road in our State would mean a considerable enlargement of this figure. But how to get this proposed road constructed, in view of the estimated cost of approximate1y $27 million, remains a vexing problem. The Skyline Drive was first conceived by former President Herbert Hoover, as a result of his many fishing and hunting trips into the area of Virginia now established as Shenandoah National Park. Mr. Hoover would often climb to the tops of the hills and mountains in that area, and spend hours admiring the scenic views about him; views he sincerely believed all Americans should have an opportunity to see and admire. He succeeded in having the Park itself authorized by Congress in 1926. It was finally established in 1935 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. But, in July, 1931, while Mr. Hoover was still President, preliminary work on the Skyline Drive was begun--solely with Federal funds. The National Park Service undertook the planning of the road, and the U. S. Bureau of Public Roads acted as the contracting agent. The main construction of the road, however, took place during President Roosevelt's tenure of office, and was completed late in 1940. It has cost the Federal government approximately $7,100,000 to build. It has cost the State of Virginia not one penny, aside from moneys it spent for access roads. Actually, the money the Federal government spent for the construction of Skyline Drive, through the National Park Service, was considered "relief funds." Building the road was considered a good way to usefully employ vast numbers of people. Moreover, the road was viewed as a means of revitalizing the depressed economy of the mountain region of Virginia, through what was then a relatively new industry: tourism. The possibility of stimulating full Federal engagement •in construction of the Monongahela scenic highland road is remote. The same economic conditions do not prevail today as when the Skyline Drive's construction was undertaken. At that time the whole Nation was in the grip of the Great Depression. One out of every 12 Americans was unemployed, and many who were working were on a part-time basis. Moreover, we had almost no National debt, and our appropriations for defense were not as staggering as they are today. Yet, West Virginia needs the Monongahela scenic highland road. Its construction would benefit the State in several immediate ways, by providing useful work for many people, and new business for our crushed stone, cement, steel and lumber industries. But, aside from these economic benefits, there is the treasure of tourism imbedded in our firm belief that all Americans should be given the opportunity to see the breath-taking scenic grandeur of West Virginia from the tops of our hills and mountains. The problem of financing the road's construction requires urgent attention.