MIAMI — Officials in Ottawa County will be seeking the public’s input March 10 on the future of Route 66’s historic “Ribbon Road” or “Sidewalk Highway” between Afton and Miami.
The meeting will be held at the Northeastern Tribal Health System at 7600 South Highway 69A at 6 p.m.
The plan is to discuss various options available to preserve and revitalize the road, which could include a cycling and hiking trail.
The road was built in 1922 just before U.S. 66 received certification and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.
Also part of an original Ozark Trail that predates Route 66, the road is 9 feet wide and 7 miles long.
Much of it is currently covered with gravel to fill potholes and keep the original road underneath from deteriorating further.
The project would be a partnership with the Miami Parks and Recreation Department and could mean new outdoor activities for the community around a trail connecting Riverview Park in Miami to the historic highway.
The late Gayle Black launched a grassroots effort several years ago to have the section of the road preserved and restored. He passed away in 2019.
“What we hope to accomplish is to preserve a piece of history that is vital for tourism in Ottawa County,” District 3 County Commissioner Russell Earls said. “We will be soliciting public input at the March 10 meeting. One of the reasons it is important is that it’s the last strip of ribbon road in this nation and it’s right here in Ottawa County. And people from all over the world come right here to see this piece of ribbon road because there’s nothing like it anywhere, as far as Route 66 goes.
“Part of the process is to gather public and property owner input to find out what they would like to see happen. Then we will compile all that, which helps us formulate a plan for the rehabilitation of this project,” Earls said.
While the project is open to ideas, the county is restrained to some degree on its plans, because the road is on the National Register.
“We hope to put it back as close as we can to its original condition. From there we are open to ideas,” said Earls.
County government will make the ultimate decisions based on whatever constraints they have to work within, as well as what they think the majority of the general public would like to see.
“As county government we are the owners of this road — the gatekeepers — and we want to do what’s right by the people and hopefully make this a destination for many folks to come and see,” Earls said.
One concern is that the county won’t be able to prevent heavy farm equipment from using the road, which could damage it, but they are working with the National Park Service to find a solution that restores and preserves the road while also allowing space for traffic to continue, according to Rhys Martin, president of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association.