By Errol Castens
NEW ALBANY – Tourism officials in New Albany and Oxford are proposing the state highway between the two cities as the William Faulkner Scenic Byway.
Highway 30 joins New Albany, the city of the Nobel Prize-winning author’s birth, with Oxford, where he spent most of his life. The road offers long Hill Country vistas, connects tiny crossroads communities and traverses farmlands and woodlands familiar to his readers.
“The Mississippi Scenic Byways Program (MSBP) is a grassroots effort designed to increase the focus on Mississippi’s history and intrinsic resources,” says the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s website. The program aims todesignate scenic byways “to preserve, enhance and protect the state’s intrinsic resources for visitors and residents.”
The National Scenic Byways Program, for which state-designated scenic byway status is a prerequisite, emphasizes roads with “archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.”
“I’ve made that trip down Highway 30 many, many times,” said Sean Johnson, New Albany’s marketing and tourism director. “You get the Hill Country feeling, especially starting on that high point near Cornersville. It’s really pretty.”
Johnson said local people’s anecdotes that connect the road to the writer will be helpful.
“What they’re looking for is not just the scenery but the story of the route,” he said.
He noted seeing a man and a mule plowing recently near the Tallahatchie River bridge. It was a reminder that mules showed up in Faulkner’s novels and stories; the author also owned acreage near Highway 30 to raise the equine hybrids.
Another example is a local account of a rustic speak-easy in the woods near Faulkner’s farm. The building was described as timber-framed with horizontal siding of broad planks nailed only at the top so that when law enforcers raided it, patrons could bypass doors and escape through the walls as easily as climbing through a rail fence.
MDOT takes scenic byway applications through April and releases in July the names of those deemed eligible. Successful applicants develop a Corridor Management Plan that includes a vision for the corridor, outlines strategies and documents public participation. If the plan is approved in November, the designation is made official by the next year’s Legislature.
VisitOxford board member Nicole Boyd said of the effort, “Faulkner brings in national and international visitors to Oxford and North Mississippi. Anything we can do to give them insights into Faulkner and his place in the world is a great benefit to both our visitors and our communities.”