OUR OPINION: Faulkner Byway idea is opportunity for growth

Gaining designation of Mississippi Highway 30 from New Albany to Oxford as a scenic byway bearing novelist and Nobel laureate William Faulkner’s name holds potential for tourism development at several levels in Oxford, New Albany and along the route.

Mississippi’s scenic byways program, run by the Department of Transportation, was started in 2002 and parallels the National Scenic Byways Program, established by Congress in 1991.

The programs are an effort to recognize certain roads based on their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.

Faulkner, who was born in New Albany and lived most of his life in Oxford, is arguably among the most famous Mississippians, and 52 years after his death remains a major international literary figure.

His birth site is identified by a marker on Cleveland Street in New Albany, and his home, Rowan Oak in Oxford, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It is owned and operated by the University of Mississippi.

Faulkner’s novels are cast against a broad backdrop of life in rural Northeast Mississippi, identified as fictional Yoknapatawpha County in his work.

Beyond things specifically Faulkner, the proposed route, dissects Holly Springs National Forest, a 150,000-plus acre federal resource whose value as a tourist draw is under-developed.

The national forest, which is interspersed with more than 500,000 acres of privately held land, is among the intrinsic values of the route.

National forest lands generally allow camping and hunting, with some restrictions based on local conditions. The HSNF headquarters in Oxford can provide information.

Among the assets along Highway 30 is Puskus Lake Recreation Area, an almost hidden national forest lake with fishing, camp sites, hiking trails and picnic areas. It is generally open all year, and is described as a quiet escape from populated nearby areas.

Puskus Lake, 96 acres, offers primitive camping or picnicking experience,

The lake is nine miles east of Oxford, with access on Highway 30 via Forest Service Road 838; the three-mile gravel road to the north leads directly to the lake.

The lake is described as stocked with “largemouth bass and bluegill with occasional crappie or catfish.”

Puskus requires a $7 fee payment.

New Albany and Oxford both offer a lot of Faulkner sites and information.

Gaining the scenic byways designation isn’t automatic.

Substantial planning and a clear vision for possible development of the program are required, plus certification by MDOT and finally, legislative approval.

Eight other state routes have been designated. The Faulkner Byway has the elements for success.