Exciting days are just around the bend

Scenic Byway signs are coming soon

OBNSB_BumperSticker_05-08-2013_TMThe Outer Banks National Scenic Byway beckons travelers to take a “Sunday drive” along the route that winds through Down East Carteret County…and beyond.

The marketing plan includes the use of traditional wayfinding devices, including signage along the route and the installation of byway orientation panels that will be strategically located at pull-off points, visitor centers and ferry terminals along the route.

The Byway’s southern gateway is on US 70 East just beyond East Carteret High School approaching the North River Bridge. A large 4-foot by 6-foot sign will read: “Welcome to the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway.”

As motorists cross the bridge, they will be greeted with another sign (same size): “Welcome to Down East.”

Signs will start appearing within a few weeks, according to Karen Amspacher of Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center, who is a charter member of the byway planning committee.

Local tourism-related business leaders attended preview sessions April 7 in Beaufort and Harkers Island to be briefed on the elements of the rollout.

“There is no more exciting time in the life of a Byway than when the signs go up,” said Breann Bye, a consultant with David Dahlquist & Associates, based in Des Moines, Iowa.

The firm specialize in “effective communication with visitors and users of public landscapes through wayshowing, interpretation and hospitality outreach.”

“Wayshowing” is the term used to refer to the assistance that Byway stakeholders can provide to travelers so their wayfinding experience can be more successful, Bye said.

“Visitors to the Byway may become confused and disoriented. Our goal is to successfully show visitors they’re on the Outer Banks Scenic Byway and how to find their way along the route, so they have a positive experience, plan to return and tell their friends and family to do the same,” she said.

“Front-line” staff and volunteers at the resource sites along the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway have a unique opportunity to connect with Byway travelers and provide informative answers about Byway resource sites (special places to visit, shop, eat, etc.), about local story themes, special events and festivals.

Similarly, personnel at other area attractions can participate by suggesting to their visitors that they ride on the Byway, often extending their stay within the region. Spend more time; spend more money.

“This is an especially critical component for the benefit of Down East communities, merchants, crafters and artisans,” said Chamber President Mike Wagoner.

“While the mainline of the Byway is US 70 East through Bettie and Otway, it’s to our advantage for travelers to then make the loop at Harkers Island Road that offers motorists a chance to see Straits, Harkers Island, Gloucester, Marshallberg and Tusk before reconnecting with US 70 East at Smyrna.

“If we can get travelers to all these communities, perhaps they could earn a ‘wayfinding merit badge,’” Wagoner offered.

“From Smyrna it’s a straight shot on US 70 East to Williston, Davis, Stacy and Masontown. We would like motorists to stay on US 70 to pass through Sea Level and go on to Atlantic. Travelers can then take Old Cedar Island Road to NC 12 and proceed on to Cedar Island.

“A great side trip for many would be to turn off at the Cedar Island Fire Department and visit Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge off Lola Road.”

One of the compelling features and a primary reason why the Byway qualified to be designated as a National Scenic Byway is the geography and terrain of Down East, Amspacher said.

Those who choose to continue on the Byway can take the state ferry over to Ocracoke and hop over to Hatteras and finish the Byway route by traveling to US 264 at Whale Bone Junction.

Amspacher said the Byway should have special appeal to travel and tourism businesses in Beaufort, because for travelers who are taking the Byway from north to south, Beaufort is the first community south of Cedar Island that offers substantial lodging accommodations.

You don’t have to wait until Sunday to make your trip, however, as the Byway is open 24-7. It’s also possible to stretch it out for as many days as you’d like. There’s a lot to see along one of America’s “great coastal landscapes.”

Start planning your visit at www.outerbanksbyway.org.