The road corridors that weave throughout Vermont are more than just a way to move us from point A to point B. In our automobile-oriented culture, they help shape our perceptions of Vermont’s sense of place and natural beauty. Understanding the character of the road corridors in your community, and recognizing the forces that shape that character, will help you to choose the best tools and techniques to preserve and enhance the overall character of your community.
When we degrade our surroundings, we also degrade our sense of who we are, where we came from, and the values we hold in common. The overall appearance of a place has a profound influence on our behavior toward that place.
One of the features that defines and reinforces Vermont’s traditional landscape is the clear boundary between city or town and the rural countryside. Recent development trends have blurred this boundary as roads that should have contained a generation of development fill up after a few years due to the inefficient use of land. Strip development – and its attendant clutter of signs, parking lots and disposable architecture – has moved business and services outside of our village centers. As a result, we drive farther for goods and services, and our scenic views are eroded as our communities begin to look much like the rest of the nation.
Thus, it is critical that Vermonters understand the role that development along road corridors will play in determining the future character of our communities. Too often we think of land fronting on our roads and highways only as commercial venues or sites for sprawling subdivisions, spreading from our villages and downtowns out into the countryside. Instead, we can identify the landscape elements that make a road corridor scenic, determine which lands should be conserved, and which areas can be developed in a manner that maintains the most desirable features.There are a variety of conservation and regulatory tools available for your community to identify and enhance your scenic resources.
The first place to start is to understand and evaluate the scenic resources along your road corridors. “Scenic resources” is an inclusive term for not only those special views and other scenic aspects that we can usually agree on, but also the agricultural lands, natural areas, forests and historic and cultural resources that line our road corridors. Protecting scenic resources is not just about preserving what is there, but guiding new development and changes in land use in a manner that fits within, and possibly enhances, the existing visual context.
It is important to develop an understanding of the resources that define road corridors in your community, and to establish priorities and set goals for protecting those resources. Once this is complete, there are both conservation and regulatory tools at your disposal to protect these resources.
- Access Management
- Billboard and Sign Control
- Overlay Districts
- Road Corridor Visual Analysis
- Scenic Byway Program
Related Case Studies
This issue contains supplemental information and detailed case studies related to The Roadscape Guide.
Views to the Mountains: A Scenic Protection Manual, was developed for the towns of Essex and Jericho based on the Roadscape Guide. This resource includes a detailed description of how to conduct a full scenic assessment.