‘Vets’ highway’ idea reaches impasse
The Mail Tribune
July 26, 2006
By Jennifer Strange
An effort by an ad hoc group of veterans from three area counties to designate Highway 62 as “Veterans Memorial Highway” has reached an impasse with state officials — in part because the state already has a highway with that name.
“We’re reviewing a package to see if there’s a way to designate it without renaming,” said ODOT District Manager John Vial. “We know we won’t rename it because changing
everyone’s address (along Highway 62) is not something we’re interested in doing.”
The Southern Oregon Veterans Memorial Highway/Highway 62 Ad Hoc Group has successfully acquired resolutions of support for their idea from the city councils of Medford, Central Point, Eagle Point, Shady Cove, Grants Pass and Klamath Falls.
Similar resolutions have come from the Jackson, Josephine and Klamath boards of county commissioners and state senators and representatives, said group Chairman Jerry Barnes. Barnes is a former Jackson County commissioner who served in the Korea and Vietnam wars as a Navy commander.
The proposal would mean the raising of signs at Highway 62’s beginning in Medford and its end where it intersects with Highway 97 in Klamath County and at several prominent locations between, Barnes said. Highway 62 has long been known at Crater Lake Highway because it is the route to the famous national park. That name is not officially recognized.
Although ODOT is “supportive of steps that support our veterans,” a primary stumbling block is that Interstate 205 in Portland already is named in honor of veterans, Vial said.
The redundancy and potential confusion of doubling up names worried members of the Oregon Geographic Names Board, which reviewed the proposal in June.
“They have written back a letter saying they’re supportive but expressed concern,” said Vial.
In addition, there are other areas in Oregon where public respect for veterans is visibly displayed. Interstate 5 is part of the Blue Star Memorial Highway program, a federal effort to recognize Americans who have served their country.
“In the landscape areas of all the rest areas on the highway, you’ll see signs explaining the program and honoring our veterans,” Vial said. “And several counties, including Klamath, have put up signs at crossings into their counties that note support for veterans.”
The proposal is in the hands of the Oregon Transportation Commission, awaiting a spot on its September agenda.
Interest in the designation has picked up speed among local veterans since the idea was first voiced by Eagle Point resident Al Schenfisch in November. Schenfisch shared his brainstorm with fellow veterans while manning a Veteran’s Day parade float.
“We took the idea and expounded on it,” Barnes said. “We felt we need to show that Oregon honors all veterans in America. That’s why we selected the highway.”
It’s a fairly easy proposal to get behind, said Eagle Point City Councilman Alan Curriston, who signed the resolution presented by Schenfisch to the council about six weeks ago.
“It’s a good idea and an effective way to recognize veterans,” Curriston said. “Apart from putting up new street signs, there shouldn’t be much negativity associated with it.”
If its bid is successful, the ad hoc group has planned an elaborate Veterans Memorial Highway dedication ceremony. Highlights could include a speech by Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a formation flyover of Kingsley Field fighter planes and a drill team from Prineville, said Barnes.
Jennifer Strange is a freelance writer living in Central Point. Reach her at email@example.com.