Why Oregon highways will be celebrated this week
Oregon’s uncluttered, attractive and often flower-dotted roadsides are due in large part to the vision of Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Johnson. She believed beauty had very practical impacts, including (as she wrote in her diary) the ability to “…help create harmony, which will lessen tensions.” This is one of the main reasons she championed the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, and alongside her husband, fought hard to get the legislation passed on Oct. 22. Fifty years later, Oregon is still enjoying the results—far beyond what anyone could have expected.
In honor of this forward-looking action, OTE and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), and our partners invite the public to a celebration entitled Tapestry of Color—highlighting the colorful plantings near roads all around the state, the colorful characters that influenced our attractive roadsides, and the colorful ways in which the state, its residents and visitors have benefited from the act – and will continue to do so into the future.
Public celebration – 50th Anniversary of the Highway Beautification Act – displays, historical pieces, volunteer organizations and more; representatives from several groups will be available to talk with visitors. Join us on Thursday, Oct. 22; 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Capitol Building, Galleria West, 900 Court St. NE in Salem.
Join OTE, ODOT, The Oregon State Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc., Roadside Development Council, Keep Oregon Green, and others, in discovering the amazing and widespread influences of the Highway Beautification Act.
Here are just a few items of interest:
- Junkyards used to be visible from major highways – it was very distracting and very unattractive. We can thank the HBA for helping clean up that view.
- Billboard clutter used to rule the highway–and became not only an unsafe distraction, but began to erode the scenic highways our state is famous for. OTE was formed by the Oregon Legislature in 1972, to regulate highway business signs. The agency became the primary permitting agency for Interstate Logo Signs and Tourist Oriented Directional Signs (TODs)—clear and easy to read signs that direct motorists to businesses both large and small.
- Oregon’s current litter patrol, which mainly employs young people just starting out, once employed retired folks who were finished with their careers. Both efforts put people on the fringes to work, and the efforts, once again, are due in large part to the HBA.
- R.H. Baldock, Oregon’s State Engineer, once wrote, “The highway roadsides are the picture frames through which people see the scenic beauty of our state.” He said it 10 years before the HBA, and then, the act put help power behind his words.
- The Grove of States is a gorgeous tree grove at the French Prairie southbound rest area, south of Wilsonville on I-5, and it is a direct result of the HBA. Restoration efforts are underway so the site will be ready for its 50th anniversary in 2017.
- At one point, the Oregon Highway Department (now ODOT) had inventoried every single billboard in Oregon. What happened next? Come find out!
After the event, we’ll be adding historical information, photos and other documents to the ODOT website so we can continue to celebrate and recognize the powerful positive influence of the Highway Beautification Act.