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The people trying to get a "Scenic Byway" designation for Route 219 thought about calling the road the "Gateway to the Southtowns."

Then they found out that Blasdell already had claim to that slogan.

That's one reason the Scenic Byway Committee is going to the public -- to find a new main theme for the project, which started out as a way of stopping billboards from sprouting along the expressway through Orchard Park, Boston and Concord.

The other reason is that the committee needs public support to achieve its goals.

"The real key to this application is to get the word out to the community that this is what we would like to do," said committee Chairman Robert Lennartz, "and see how many letters of support we can get."

If the committee reaches its goal, it would be the first state scenic byway in Western New York. Roads in the Adirondacks and Finger Lakes regions have that designation.

The byway designation would really be an economic-development tool, Lennartz said, though it could still have the desired side effect of keeping 14-by-48-foot signs off the green hills surrounding the road.

The effort started when the Town of Orchard Park was engaged in a lawsuit with billboard vendors, who tried to overcome the town's no-billboard rules. Concord and Boston later joined the bypass effort, with support promised from Erie County Legislators Jeanne Z. Chase, R-Eden, and Steven P. McCarville, R-Orchard Park.

"I really believe that either the entire highway for the byway, or at least a portion of it, we should dedicate to the veterans of the country," Lennartz said. "It would be very nice if you were going through the Boston Hills and if you wanted to think about home. I think seeing some of that scenery can bring you back to what this country is about."

The committee has brought in Elizabeth Cheteny, director of the University at Buffalo's Urban Design Project, and a team of graduate students to help put together an application for the byway designation. It has to be approved by the state Department of Transportation.

"The students have been pulling together an inventory to show it has not only scenic qualities, but also cultural and arts," Cheteny said. "So that would include things like the Quaker Arts Festival, recreational facilities -- everything that's within a 5-mile corridor that's within easy reach, like Ralph Wilson Stadium."

Cheteny said that putting a byway designation on Route 219 might only be a first step. Eventually, she said, it could be expanded into loops, giving tourists a round trip through the region.

"Route 219 follows a distinct ridge," she said. "And on other side, Route 240 is quite scenic. You could eventually go through the Village of Springville.

"Eventually, you could also loop in 20A, tying in the landmarks in East Aurora. But right now, we're promoting the first phase, with potential for adding onto it."


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